Puccini’s final unfinished opera, Turandot, will be revived at the Arcola this summer in a radical and confronting retelling. Spearheaded by a team of award-winning creatives and artists from the Asian diaspora, this unnervingly relevant reinterpretation tackles head-on the work’s orientalist tropes and reflects on the new role the Far East plays as a modern, technological superpower.
Employing a scenography by Ingrid Hu and cutting-edge video design by Erin Guan, Puccini’s Turandot is plunged into a digital dystopia. This reimagining explores the toxicity of online obsession in the face of human tragedy. No longer a real woman, the imperious Turandot (Reiko Fukuda) is repositioned as a digital fantasy princess, carved from the online world of fetish and erotica, who lures Calaf (James Liu) into an addictive, virtual hellscape as he struggles to return to reality.
Turandot was essentially banned in China for most of the twentieth century; this new production co-directed by Olivier Award nominated librettist Becca Marriott and Southeast Asian director-writer Iskandar إسكندر R. Sharazuddin aims to challenge racist stereotypes that paint East Asian women as either subservient, cruel, or hyper-sexual as well as the historic and contemporary use of Yellowface in theatre, opera, and on-screen.