Sunday, November 23, 2003

Ping, Pang, and Pong funny at last

They were; and Liu elicited the customary tears. For some unaccountable reason, it's just possible that Turandot is this household's most-seen opera: several times, and in Houston, in Dallas, and in Austin. Every time until this one, the set was the one with the giant gilded dragon holding a pearl in one claw and a perch for the old emperor in the other. Did the dragon belch smoke? Perhaps-faulty recollection seems to suggest that it did. The set this time was modest; the costumes were imaginative but not over-expensive, one would guess; the cast sang very well, the orchestra was under the baton of Peter Bay (his first opera to conduct, apparently) and sounded better than it has since the days of Walter Ducloux. So staying up late was worth it. The audience was genuinely appreciative and enthusiastic. We were surprised to see Holton Johnson as the old emperor. We've been to Gilbert & Sullivan productions in which he's had prominent roles, most recently Frederic in Pirates of Penzance. According to the Austin Lyric Opera program, he's gainfully employed with ALO as a database administrator. The opera chorus has its own website. The chorus has sounded snappier at times in the past; the children's chorus was wonderful. Never before had Ping, Pang, and Pong seemed the least bit humorous--just another first at the Austin Lyric Opera.

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