Turandot: table-flipping levels of drama

Another edition of Sneakers at the Opera with Rosie Waterland

Rosie Waterland was a guest of Opera Australia at Turandot at the Sydney Opera House in 2019. This is her unedited review of the experience.

Hello and welcome to another edition of what I have now decided I will officially name ‘Sneakers at the Opera’ with Rosie Waterland. If you didn’t catch my last review, get on that quick smart by clicking right here, because opera is my JAM now, which means I know everything possible there is to know about it and I don’t have time to be explaining the nitty gritty to amateurs who’ve never stepped foot in an opera theatre.

LOL JK I’ve seen three operas total and know nothing about anything except that it is epic, entertaining, and makes you question why you haven’t understood more about it until now, other than that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine go to see a scary clown in something called Pagliacci, while hiding from an actual scary clown on the street called Crazy Joe Davola. (Opera always seems to involve some kind of scary clown — don’t ask me I guess it’s a rule or something.)

If you’ve never been to the opera, you’ll find that being a first-timer isn’t actually intimidating at all. (And I once met Gloria Steinem and was so nervous that I bumped our boobs together, so I know intimidating.)

No matter what your knowledge base, here are the main things I’ve learned in my now expert-level three times at the opera: it’s so casual that not only do you not have to dress up, but you’re allowed to wear sneakers (I did) and the stories can almost always be compared to some of the best television you’ve ever seen.

This time around, I took myself along to Turandot. And let me just say: it is some celebrity scandal-level TEA-SPILLING DRAMAAAAAH. If Rigoletto was the opera equivalent of Law and Order, then Turandot is like a reality TV show, celebrity scandal and crushing love story all rolled into one. It’s Real Housewives crossed with every crazy headline you see on the front cover of a tabloid. With a whole lot of people running around with big banners and props in the background.

I’m not kidding: Turandot has TABLE-FLIPPING levels of dramaaaah.

Now, the singing is freaking incredible. I mean, this is the opera, so that should go without saying, but I feel like I should say it just because, you get so wrapped up in the DRAMAAAH that at some points you forget that you’re watching some of the best singers in the world and just settle deeper into your seat while shovelling popcorn in your mouth and watching the whole thing unfold. (Ok so, there is no popcorn, but there might as well be, given the juiciness of the whole thing.)

I’m not even kidding here but… Turandot is basically the story of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, but in opera form. Seriously. Allow me to explain.

Turandot is actually the name of some grand Princess (that’s Ariana).

Lise Lindstorm as Turandot at the Sydney Opera House

Yo what’s up I’m a Princess. Photo by Branco Gaica

She’s had many suitors who have tried to permanently capture her heart, but not quite got there. Then this dude called Calaf comes along (that’s Pete Davidson), and although a little rough around the edges for Princess Turandot Ariana, he has a lot of confidence and swagger (that’s the famous Pete ‘BDE’ — I suggest googling it if you don’t know what that means because I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to say the actual words in a review about the opera).

Yonghoon Lee as Calaf in Turandot

Hello, I’m a man and therefore have inexplicable confidence that makes me think I’m good enough for a literal princess. Photo by Branco Gaica

So Princess Turandot is all, “nah I’m not interested, but if you really wanna try, you have to answer these riddles correctly. Oh and by the way if you don’t you get beheaded kthxbyeeeee.”

Meanwhile, pretty much everyone who knows the princess is telling Calaf Pete Davidson to stay away from her and that it’s all going to end in disaster and he should just go back to his sweet little life telling jokes and starring on Saturday Night Live. But he’s so obsessed with her, he can’t let it go. He must have her. He sings about her a lot (this is the phase where Pete got all those ill-advised Ariana tattoos). The big famous number of the show, ‘Nessun dorma’, is basically Calaf Pete Davidson’s BDE anthem — despite what everyone says, he knows that he can win her heart despite just being a lowly comedian and her a massive pop star. He’s just that good.

Calaf Pete Davidson manages to figure out Princess Turandot Ariana’s riddle and thus saves his head. But then she freaks out and is like, “I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS! ALSO I ALWAYS WEAR JUMPERS WITH NO PANTS!”

Lise Lindstrom as Turandot and Yonghoon Lee as Calaf

If you gotta give up the single life, you might as well terrify the dude by turning up on stilts and in a dress like this. Photo by Branco Gaica

Calaf Pete Davidson is nice to her and is kind of like, “Look, I’m not gonna make you be with me, but I reckon you’ll fall for me cos I tell some pretty mad jokes on SNL. But, I also have a lot of swagger and since you made ME guess the answer to a riddle, now I’m gonna make YOU guess the answer to a riddle.” (I guess this is when Ariana and Pete kept trying to one-up each other with devoted tattoos? Look I dunno, but I’m already knee-deep in this analogy so I’m sticking with it.)

Meanwhile, everyone is still telling him to get the hell outta there, another girl who loves him is devo that he only wants the princess, the sexy sex bed chamber is being prepared in case they finally get together and live happily ever after… basically, a LOT of drama goes down AKA weeks and weeks of endless stories in gossip mags about our star-crossed lovers.

Mariana Hong as Liu in Turandot

Not sure why so many women are into this pretty average dude but then THAT’S MODERN DATING FOR YOU ISN’T IT? (Fed up with Tinder? Me? How can you tell?). Photo by Keith Saunders.

Everything builds up to the one suspense-filled, magnificent moment where we finally find out if the epic love story of Princess Turundot Ariana and Calaf Pete Davidson will be one for the ages.

And just like the glorious few months Ariana and Pete were together in real life, I WAS ON THE EDGE OF MY FREAKING SEAT. Opera hooks you the frig in, man. I was so invested in the whole thing that I practically needed a lie-down afterwards.

Now, I’m not going to tell you the fate of Turandot and Calaf — I don’t want to ruin the ending. But I will say this:

Opera is awesome. Turandot is like 6 months of Hollywood gossip and drama crammed into 2 hours. IT’S BASICALLY HOLLYWOOD DRAMA DISGUISED AS HIGH CULTURE! So, you know, a dream come true for anyone obsessed with celebrity relationship gossip and reality TV. (So, anyone awesome.)

It's this:

Plus this:

Equals this:

Lise Lindstrom and Yonghoon Lee in Turandot

Photo by Branco Gaica

This has been another edition of Sneakers at the Opera. I’ll be back soon with another review that will likely have wildly misinterpreted the show but loved it nonetheless, because I am opera’s newest, biggest fan, and I want to hook all of you in too. (And I promise I’m not the only one who wore sneakers.)