The last Chinese on the opera stage

The last Chinese on the opera stage


norman lebrecht

January 31, 2020

As virus hatches are battened and China goes off the music map for the next month and more, this is what we have left:

Anna Netrebko’s Turandot in Munich.

Can anyone translate those quirky costumes?



  • Akutagawa says:

    Full disclosure: my background is in Japanese, not Chinese, so I may well be talking nonsense.

    I think it might say Princess Turandot (the bottom character means royal, and the second one is pronounced ran), but to be honest the whole thing is a bit of a dog’s breakfast in terms of characters (traditional versus simplified forms) and fonts (why is the bottom character much bolder than the others?)

    Happy to be proven wrong!

    • Straussian says:

      You are correct – the first three characters are the phonetic equivalent of Turandot. The bottom character means “king.” Visually, very amateurish in execution.

  • Caranome says:

    Looks like they are holding scrolls that says Tu Lan Duo. The 4th character on the right “wang”means king or royal, which is of course incorrect, as it should be princess (gong zhu). I’m disappointed that a high-class joint such as this opera house can’t have someone native to check on the accuracy of the one Chinese-themed opera in the repertory.

    • Ninedragonspot says:

      Precisely this. 圖蘭朵 just means Turandot (spelled out in Chinese characters), while 王 means king. (All traditional characters, by the way.) Emperor is 皇帝, princess is 公主. 王 is masculine, a female version would be something like 王后 or 女王。

      I can’t think of any other explanation than that in the final moments of Turandot, Netrebko suddenly grows a pair and becomes a man, while the empire simultaneously undergoes devolution to become a mere kingdom.

      Or, I suppose, it could be that the Bayerische Staatsoper relied on GoogleTranslate because they have no Chinese friends.

      • Olassus says:

        Bayerische Staatsoper relied on a stage director who puts people on roller-skates and high wires, provides no sound-panels to aid the voices’ projection into the auditorium, and ends the evening deficiently with Liù’s death, as if Puccini’s failure to complete is reason enough. Netrebko, having next-to-nothing to do in Act III, looked ineffectual Jan. 28, and audience emotion registered yet again, after eight seasons of this, off-kilter. I am convinced that Puccini got into trouble by using on Liù material that should have gone to Calaf-Turandot, with development, mischaracterizing the slave’s demise and boxing himself in.

  • her royal snarkiness says:

    L to R:

    On the way home

    Remember to wave

    And don’t forget

    Your Burma Shave

  • Jie Yin says:

    The word is Turandot written in traditional Chinese

    王 = King