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Dayton Opera Closes Its Season in Grand Fashion with Puccini’s Exotic Blockbuster Turandot

DAYTON, OH (April 29, 2018) – On Friday, May 18, 2018 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Thomas Bankston, will present Puccini’s Turandot, the fourth and final opera of the 2017-2018 The Great Ones Season. This opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Principal Sponsor for this production is The Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation, and Leadership Sponsor is Gosiger, Inc. Performance Sponsor is Dr. and Mrs. Edward Hughes/ First Dayton CyberKnife. Supporting Sponsors are 10 Wilmington Place and Evans Motorworks. DPAA’s Innovation Partner for the 2017-2018 The Great Ones Season is DP&L Foundation—Powering Innovation in the Performing Arts.

Can passion ignite ice? Who is the mysterious, ardent stranger who so unwisely seeks the hand of beautiful, forbidding Princess Turandot? Will they solve the riddles they pose each other—with love and life itself as the prize?

Plunge into the dazzling, faraway universe of Puccini’s last and most luxuriant work, Turandot. It’s a world of palatial splendor, set in China’s Forbidden City in legendary old Peking.

Along the way, you’ll encounter some of Puccini’s most vivid and unforgettable characters—passionate, single-minded Calaf; haunting, self-sacrificing Liu, who has long secretly loved him; aged Timur, Calaf’s dethroned father; and chilling Princess Turandot, whose regal allure has enticed uncounted hapless suitors to a swift and grisly decapitation.

Puccini’s swan song is his grandest and most exotic opera, splashed against the spectacle of ancient Imperial China. But despite the scenic splendor, it’s Puccini’s glorious melodies that will leave you breathless, including the passionately yearning “Nessun dorma” (Nobody sleeps), perhaps best known as Luciano Pavarotti’s signature aria.

Audiences will laugh in sympathy with Ping, Pang, and Pong as they weigh their precarious court lives against their desire for a peaceful retreat to the country. Perhaps a tear or two will be shed over sweet Liu and her hopeless love. Her “Tu, che di gel” (You who are girdled by ice) softens every heart but Turandot’s.

Dayton Opera Artistic Director Thomas Bankston has assembled some of the finest vocalists, all who have graced the Dayton stage in the past, to bring Puccini’s masterpiece to life in the world-class Schuster Center. Dayton Opera is thrilled to welcome back soprano Kara Shay Thomson in the title role of this sweeping production. Only a few short months have passed since her gripping performance as Magda Sorel this past October in Dayton Opera’s The Consul. Prior to this 2017-2018 season, Thomson performed the title role of Dayton Opera’s production of Tosca to rave reviews in November 2013. The New York Times praises her presence and vocal prowess with the following recent review: “From the first phrases sung by Kara Shay Thomson, a compelling American soprano with a plush, vibrant, powerful voice, you do not know whether to pity or fear her.” These performances in the title role of Turandot are her first outing in this most challenging of dramatic soprano roles.

In the 2013 production of Tosca, Thomson’s love interest on stage, in the role of Cavaradossi, was tenor Jonathan Burton. Burton returns to Dayton Opera to play Thomson’s on-stage love interest once again, this time in the role of Calaf, the unknown prince who has come to capture Turandot’s heart. Most recently, Burton helped the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance open its 2016-2017 as the star tenor soloist in the Season Opening Spectacular Vive La France. “Mr. Burton has an exciting squillo in his full-bodied tenor that is riveting.” (James Sohre, Opera Today)

Also returning to Dayton Opera is soprano Chloé Olivia Moore, who will sing the captivating role of Liu, the slave girl whose love for Calaf brings to the forefront the kind of love triangle that often injects the passion and the tragedy into any good opera. Moore returns to Dayton after making her Dayton Opera debut as Leila in the April 2015 production of Pearl Fishers and most recently having performed the lead role of Nedda in the tragic I Pagliacci in 2016. Known for her unique timbre and depth with unusual flexibility and speed, Moore’s voice has been described as having “an amber mellowness, like a warm cognac.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Just this past March, bass Harold Wilson delighted audiences with both his seriousness and his levity in the role of Basilio in The Barber of Seville. Praised as singing with “an impressive focus, carrying power and quiet charisma” by the New York Times, Wilson takes the stage for the fourth time with Dayton Opera, this time in the role of Timur, an old blind exiled king and the father of Calaf. Wilson has built an impressive résumé over the last 16 years, with performances spanning the globe and including roles in such magnificent opera houses as Deutsche Opera Berlin and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Three young opera stars familiar with the Dayton Opera stage return to comprise Puccini’s comedic trio Ping, Pang, and Pong. Former Dayton Opera Artist-in-Residence, baritone Kenneth Stavert, returns to the stage in the role of Ping. Tenor Robert Norman, who most recently performed the role of Nika Magadoff in The Consul this past October, takes on the role of Pang. And Dayton Opera 2017-2018 Artist-in-Residence tenor Michael Anderson takes the stage with Dayton Opera one last time this season in the role of Pong.

Also joining the cast is baritone Bradley Mattingly in the role of Mandarin, and debuting in this production is UD faculty member and tenor David Sievers as the Emperor Altoum.

Dayton Opera welcomes the return of Johnathon Pape to the Gem City to man the helm as stage director of this electrifying production of Turandot. Pape previously directed Dayton Opera productions of Carmen in 1999, Don Giovanni in 2000, The Barber of Seville in 2001, and most recently, The Daughter of the Regiment in 2011. Pape’s directing career spans theater, musical theater, and opera, and he has staged a wide range of productions throughout the United States and abroad. In 2011, Pape joined the faculty of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he serves as Director of Opera Studies, and in 2017, he instituted the Boston Conservatory Summer Opera Intensive, a three-week training program in Valencia, Spain.

Puccini’s luxurious score will be provided by the impeccable Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman. The ever-versatile members of the Dayton Opera Chorus, under the direction and leadership of Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell, take to the stage again to add their choral expertise. Adding to the vocal power in this production are auxiliary singers from the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus and from University of Dayton. Dayton Opera is also pleased to welcome several chorus members from Kettering Children’s Choir under the direction of Chorale Director Bruce Swank.

An opera that fills the stage with Imperial guards, executioners, priests, mandarins, dignitaries, wise men, handmaids, soldiers, standard-bearers, and the populace of Peking, Turandot closes this season of The Great Ones in grand style!

Want to learn even more about Turandot? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf inside the Mead Theatre.

Tickets for Turandot range from $28 to $94 and are available at www.daytonperformingarts.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. For more information on tickets, or how to subscribe to the 2017-2018 The Great Ones Season, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.