BLOG: 1ST NOV 2017 

Following an invitation from our good friends Arnold and Kate Schmeidler to visit them at their home in Larchmont just outside New York City, it was also a chance for Jan, myself and for us all to meet up with Mattia and Michelle, our opera-singing friends from Lucca. Having toured much of America for a month on both business and pleasure with Michelle, Mattia had work commitments in New York that also included attending a performance of Puccini’s Turandot at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

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For us all this became a very special occasion since Mattia knew well Oksana Dyka the soprano who played the title role of Turandot that evening. Oksana was born in 1978 and comes from Zhytomyr, a good-sized city in the Ukraine just west of the capital Kiev. She has visited Lucca several times and she remembered meeting me last year whilst she was strolling along the walls with Mattia. She finished her formal musical education graduating in 2004 at the Petro Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine in Kiev and was a soloist there from 2003 until 2007.

Oksana won the 2003 Marseilles International Opera Competition that led to her performing the lead role in Tosca at the Opéra National de Montpellier in 2005. Amongst many other appearances internationally, she also performed the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Opera Queensland in Australia in 2007. In 2014 Oksana made her Royal Opera debut in London, again singing the title role in Tosca for which her strong clear voice is very suited.

The stage of Turandot at the ‘Met’ was a visual feast as the rich shimmering gold colours and silvery blues of the setting cleverly portrayed the fairy tale set in China’s mystical past. Although the role of Calaf was not sung on the night by Aleksandr Antonenko, the Latvian tenor, special praise was given by the critics for Oksana’s ‘impressive, steely’ performance particularly in the fiendishly difficult entrance aria “In questa reggia”.

Although naturally forbidden to take photographs during the performance, I was able to record her as she took her applause afterwards, displaying Turandot’s elaborate costume as a Chinese princess.

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We not only had to thank Mattia for obtaining six tickets for excellent seats near the front, he managed to obtain special permission to go backstage and meet Oksana in her dressing room whilst still wearing her dramatic make-up. She was very happy to chat and discuss her work at the ‘Met’ with friends and it was a privilege to witness the behind-the-scenes activity in such a world-class theatre.

Next door to Oksana’s dressing room there was a piano that caught Arnold’s eye and he didn’t hesitate to sit down and play some classical piano music, much appreciated by everyone, if not by the security staff. However, Arnold can now ‘honestly’ claim to have played piano at the ‘Met’!

As we made our way out of the theatre via the stage door and back into the fountain square in front of the grand entrance, we managed to locate our eight-seater taxi and reflected on our way back to Larchmont on what was indeed a special evening of Puccini in New York.