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They say sex sells. It’s a maxim that Swedish opera company Folkoperan is putting to the test in a playful new teaser video promoting their production of Puccini’s Turandot, which opens on September 18. The video features scenes of people orgasming spliced wth the opera's vocal climax – Calaf’s aria Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep), riffing on a sequence from the award-winning 2001 French film Amélie.
Puccini’s final and unfinished opera tells the story of the eponymous Turandot, a Chinese princess who vets suitors by asking them to solve three riddles. Failure means death by beheading, but her suitors – including Calaf – are so overcome by desire they are willing to risk it all. This Folkoperan production, directed by the company’s Artistic Director Mellika Melouani Melani, is a retelling of Puccini’s opera in which humans are caught between civilisation and instinct.
“Puccini died suddenly leaving Turandot unfinished, but we can guess what he means with ‘E poi Tristano’ (‘And then Tristan’) that he writes in the incomplete sketch of the final duet,” the director says. “Tristan and Isolde do not die of love alone. They also die by giving up in their own song that is no longer part of the earthly realm. In the Folkoperan production, Calaf finally reveals himself out of his love for Turandot. It is going to be brutal.”
The video – which features people of different ages, orientations and backgrounds in the throes of pleasure – has grabbed the attention of opera fans worldwide, garnering responses ranging from mirth to outrage. But time will tell whether this unorthodox approach will deliver a happy ending at the box office.