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Whether through its phenomenal acoustics or breathtaking architecture, Valencia's spectacular Calatrava opera house "Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía" - itself a work of art - seems to bring out the best of all who gather there to celebrate artistic creation. And this production of Puccini's "Turandot" from the Festival del Mediterrani is no exception! Internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige (1993 Golden Palm in Cannes for Farewell My Concubine) delivers an opulent background for the fairy-tale story of the Chinese Princess Turandot, who will marry only a prince of royal blood who can solve her three riddles. With a wealth of sumptuous costumes and palace sets designed and produced in China, Kaige's staging provides a compellingly authentic accent to Puccini's exotic orchestral palette. "I hope that this Turandot ... will make the audience perceive certain aspects of Chinese culture more clearly," says director Chen Kaige. While Zubin Mehta and his technically brilliant Orquestra de la Comunitat trigger a "genuine fireworks of sound" (Wiener Zeitung), Maria Guleghina triumphs as Turandot by tempering her character's icy coldness with the luminous warmth of her voice. As Calaf, Marco Berti recalls Pavarotti at his best in his heartbreaking "Nessun dorma!," one of the most popular tenor arias in the entire opera repertoire. Also outstanding in their vocal artistry and stage presence are Alexia Voulgaridou as Liu and Alexander Tsymbalyuk as Timur.

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