ADJUSTING THE PITCH: CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY GRAPPLES WITH INTERPRETING TURANDOT FOR TODAY

Classic operas are important 'but they need to be contextualized,' says scholar

Tamara Wilson and Sergei Skorokhodov appear in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Turandot, beginning Saturday in Toronto. (Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company)

Even if you’ve never set foot in an opera house, you’ve likely heard Nessun Dorma from the opera Turandot. 

One of the opera world’s instantly recognizable arias, Nessun Dorma (None shall sleep) has also had crossover success: it’s Hollywood’s soundtrack shorthand for bombasticclimatic scenes; a soccer stadium favourite, and a staple for male singers eager to show off their vocal chops. Aretha Franklin — as a last-minute replacement enlisted to deliver ailing tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s signature tune — tore down the 1998 Grammy Awards with her rendition.

An opera house go-to, Turandot is being seen by a wider audience than ever, but that increased exposure has also meant that Giacomo Puccini’s final work has joined other classic operas being re-examined through a modern lens.

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