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Archive for August, 2011

Turandot

Last night I was treated to my very first open-air opera experience: a viewing of Giacomo Pucini’s Turandot in Timisoara’s Rose Park. The opera was performed by the Timisoara National Romanian Opera ensemble, choir and orchestra, as part of the 7th annual Opera and Operetta Festival.

Although I’ve lived in Timisoara for a long time, I’ve regrettably never heard of this festival before. After missing a showing of La Traviata on Friday, me and my friends decided to give Turandot a go, despite not having a great deal of knowledge about this particular piece.

To  begin with, I think the choice of setting for this festival is an amazing one. Timisoara can in no way complain of a lack of parks. Although it’s not a big city – especially by Western standards – Timisoara has an abundance of parks that the public can enjoy at all times. The Rose Park (Parcul Rozelor) is perhaps one of the most beautiful. From my research, the park started out as a rose garden in honour of Emperor Franz Josef. To this day, the distinctive features of this park are the flowers, and the rose arches in particular.

We arrived in Rose Park half an hour early but the benches were already starting to get full. By the time the first act began the spectator area was full, which was a very welcome surprise. Access to the festival was free but even so, it was nice to see so many people taking time to come down and support the city’s performing artists.

Before I delve any further into the opera itself, I should say that despite the opera being entirely in Italian, there were no subtitles (like you get when you go to see a normal opera show). I don’t know if the presumption was that everyone knew Italian or everyone knew the plot, or perhaps it was a technical slip up, but the first few minutes were very frustrating! LUCKILY, a woman sitting next to us realised our confusion and proceeded to explain what was happening throughout the opera!! After we got a handle on what was going on, the experience was truly fantastic.

The set and the costumes were beautiful, as you will be able to see from the video below of a different (but identical) showing I found on Youtube. The title of the opera refers to the Princess Turandot who has a heart of stone. Therefore, she requires that any suitors have to answer three impossible riddles to earn her love, and if they are not able to, they will be beheaded. Countless princes and noblemen have been killed in pursuit of the illusive Turandot. Now it is the turn of the young Prince of Tartary, whose people are now under Chinese rule. The young prince is amazed at Turandot’s beauty and decides to try to earn her hand. As my friend Ioana pointed out last night however, he must have also had more material reasons, such as earning back his lands perhaps? Not surprisingly, he manages to answer the riddles correctly, but that doesn’t mean that Princess Turandot will come easy. I will not give away the twist, but this is a particularly beautiful story and I am very glad I got to see it!

Now the video, from the second act when the young stranger answer’s Turandot’s riddles:

The festival continues next weekend and I am looking forward to seeing another wonderful performance in the park. If you’re around check out the web page of the Timisoara National Romanian Opera for what’s on.

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One of my favorite cartoons when I was growing up was a little known gem called Captain Planet. The show follows the adventures of five teenagers (‘The Planeteers’), guided by Captain Planet, a superhuman environmental warrior and Gaia, symbolising the Spirit of the Earth.

Growing up, the show was very entertaining and I might have even picked up a few moral lessons along the way. In every episode, Captain Planet would call upon the Planeteers t defend the world from an environmental catastrophe and would also teach them an important lesson in the meantime.

Looking back on it, the premise and the set up were actually incredibly deep for a children’s show. The baddies were always people who were trying to exploit the natural environment for their own material gain (something we today call capitalist entrepreneurs if I’m not mistaken). The Planeteers were purposefully assembled from different regions of the earth represented multiculturalism and the need to instill the kind of moral traits in the younger generations that would lead them not to repeat their predecessors’ mistakes.

The analogies that can be drawn are endless. And perhaps we can say that today we are farther away from the image of the world portrayed in Captain Planet than ever. But today is also the UN International Youth Day. On this day we should be inspired by and through the younger generations, who, to use a cliché, are the future of the word. I’m not sure if Captain Planet is still being shown on children’s TV channels anywhere in the world. Even if it isn’t, educating children about the environment, climate change and most importantly the consequences of their actions in the long run is more important now than ever.

For now, I leave you with the Captain Planet intro song which is quite simply kick ass! Gunna take pollution down to 0!

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Siberian dream…

I have to say, I would really really like this to be my bedroom. Part of an amazing and VERY big Siberian house! Relocation?

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