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Opera Carolina's Turandot turns up the heat

Or, this princess is an uber-bitch

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Turandot is a 12th century Asian princess, a Middle Ages era cross between contemporary uber-bitches Cersei Lannister and Kim Kardashian. Her beauty is so captivating that countless men vie for her affection. Those who incorrectly respond to three puzzling questions laid before them as a condition of her hand are rewarded with a visit to the guillotine.

Man, love hurts.

Charlotte audiences will find out just how much when Opera Carolina brings Giacomo Puccini's tale of amour gone askew, Turandot, to the Belk Theater for the second production of its 2015 season.

Matching huge stars with this oversized drama, OC's staging of Puccini's final opera brings to Charlotte two of the brightest lights in opera today. Renowned tenor Carl Tanner plays Calàf, a man obsessed upon first sight with the dark hearted yet beautiful princess Turandot, played by Canadian-American soprano Othalie Graham. (Tanner, veteran of the Metropolitan Opera, replaces Marcello Giordani as Calàf in the production as Giordani was forced to withdraw from the production for health reasons.)

Graham is no stranger to Charlotte audiences. She twice appeared in OC's Arts.Poetry.Music ensemble and took center stage in the title role of Aida in its 2013/14 season.

"I believe Othalie can be a great star," Meena says. "Her voice is simply spectacular, quite large and dramatic, yet lyrical — rare for a dramatic soprano."

Graham shares an equal level of respect for Meena. "Working with Maestro Meena just spoils me when working with others," she says. "He has such attention to detail and works at such a high level; it is always a great learning experience and exciting to work with him."

Graham notes her great appreciation for the incredible effort Puccini put into to crafting his final opera. "I've come to recognize through hours of rehearsal and performance the level of craft and intensity the composer put into this piece," she says. "I feel a tremendous responsibility to him in performance to make certain audiences get my very best."

Don't look for Graham until Act 2, when Turandot finally makes her appearance on stage. It's well worth the wait, however, as when she does, things begin to rock as she toys with Calàf, messing with his head.

Obsessed with Turandot's beauty, Calàf is intent on solving her riddles, ignoring pleas of court advisers and Liu, his own amorous pursuer, who begs him to abandon this certain folly.

Clever Calàf answers all Turandot's questions correctly, yet she still denies marrying him, reneging on her bargain. He offers her an out, telling her if she learns his name within the next day, he will agree to be killed.

Turandot turns Beijing upside down in pursuit of someone who can reveal Calàf's name, finally discovering Liu who possesses that knowledge. Refusing to share the secret, Liu instead kills herself, telling Turandot that her actions are motivated by love.

Finally recognizing the overwhelming power of amore, Turandot relents, welcoming Calàf into her heart.

Apparently back in the day, it took a mite more to score than a good pickup line and Club Level seats to the Hornets game.

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