TURANDOT, OLIVIA HUSSEY AND NOSTALGIA
I have two confessions to make. The first one dates to an experience about four decades back. My first crush was when I was all of sixteen and had entered the portals of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (now called as Chennai). That was in 1969. From having operated under a strict regimen at home of being allowed to watch just one movie a quarter, and that too a movie chosen by my father (which inevitably belonged to the genre of “family” movies, produced by production houses like Prasad Productions or AVM or Rajshri), my entry into IIT catapulted me to watching at least one movie a week, on an average, in the famed Open Air Theatre of IIT, Chennai. Although, the movies screened there were more than three or four years old those days, we, students would venture occasionally to watch a good release in the cinema houses. That was what caused me to meet Olivia Hussey when her debut movie was screened in a local cinema theatre in Chennai. I remember her beautiful face and her lovely tresses and features writ with innocence all over and how that image of hers held me in love-struck delirium which lasted several months at least. In the role of Juliet, she exuded all that a young lad like me would have wanted in a “girl-friend”; and while I have never met her or seen any other movie of hers, she suddenly came back to my mind day before yesterday night during the official opening of the Royal Opera House in Muscat when the lavish production of the Opera TURANDOT was presented.
At the end of the spectacular show, the director of TURANDOT, Franco Zeffirelli, took a bow and I immediately recalled that he was indeed the director of ROMEO AND JULIET, the 1968 masterpiece in which he had launched my first crush, Olivia Hussey. If you get to see this masterpiece of a love story, you will find enough reasons and more to understand why I felt about Olivia Hussey the way I felt!!
TURANDOT is indeed a spectacular presentation; the sets are truly outstanding. The story, based in Peking (now Beijing) takes us back to the Imperial Kingdom several centuries back and is metaphorical and lyrical about the power of sacrifice and love to conquer the hardest of hearts. And in the majestic ambience of the Royal Opera House in Muscat, the spectacle as it unfolded, was more brilliant than what I had imagined. Having seen RIGOLETTO a few weeks earlier in the same venue, I cannot but compare these two shows. While in both these shows, the presentation was outstanding, I personally felt that the storyline and acting in RIGOLETTO was better, but TURANDOT was better in terms of the stunning appeal of the sets. No words are enough to describe the glory of the Royal Opera House here in Muscat and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said deserves full credit for having thought of this and having assembled a team to execute his dream to perfection.
Now for my second confession. I still do not have an ear for the operatic singing style and which perhaps has denied me the opportunity to enjoy these performances even more. But the insides of my ears vibrated with pleasure at the sounds of the orchestra (so befittingly conducted by Placido Domingo) and the eyes witnessed a visual feast not hitherto seen: I couldn’t have asked for more!
October 16th, 2011