Ai Weiwei to direct Turandot, set in China

ROME • Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, known for his politically charged contemporary works, will try his hand at opera by directing Turandot, which is set in his homeland.

The Rome Opera said last Friday that Ai will direct composer Giacomo Puccini's work and design the sets and costumes. It will open in March at the mid-point of the 2019-2020 season and be the first theatrical work for the artist.

Turandot, set in China, is the story of Prince Calaf, who falls in love with the cold-hearted Princess Turandot. But to win her hand, he first must solve three riddles. He does, but she still refuses.

Turandot, which debuted in Milan in 1926, contains one of music's most famous arias - Nessun Dorma, made globally famous when late tenor Luciano Pavarotti sang it at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Ai, 61, who was detained for nearly three months in his homeland in 2011 and is known is for his criticism of China's stifling of free expression, hinted that his Turandot will not pull any punches.

"This Turandot will be from my point of view," Ai, who has been based in Berlin since 2015, said in a statement released through the opera house.

"It will be an opera immersed in the contemporary world, the present cultural and political struggles represented through Puccini's story."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2019, with the headline 'Ai Weiwei to direct Turandot, set in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe