Now a regular face at Edmonton Opera (last seen in The Barber of Seville and Eugene Onegin), tenor James McLennan is back this time as Pang in Turandot. Along with tenor Chris Mayell and baritone Geoffrey Sirett, McLennan is part of a comic trio that promises some great laughs! Read below to learn McLennan's thoughts on the upcoming production:
Having performed with Edmonton Opera in the past, what are you looking forward to most about performing in Edmonton again?
I love the people in Edmonton. Their enthusiasm for opera and for the arts in general is palpable. And the folks who work at EO are really dedicated. It’s great to be surrounded by people who love what they do.
What do you find fascinating about the opera Turandot?
It’s his last opera, and Puccini is in full command of his art. But he’s also experimenting and exploring new directions. The score is extremely cinematic. Audiences might think they’re hearing an epic MGM film score at times.
What aspects of the comic trio Ping, Pang, Pong intrigue you? What purpose do you think they serve in an opera like Turandot?
Ping Pang Pong are the comic relief, but they also are the most down-to-earth characters in the show. They provide a gateway for the audience into the fantastical world of mythical ancient China. While the other characters sing about passion, sacrifice, and honour, Ping, Pang and Pong just want to keep their jobs and maybe enjoy some time off from decapitating over-confident princes. Pretty relatable, really!
Is there a particular part in the opera that you’re especially looking forward to, or that you think the audience might particularly enjoy?
It’s always fun to see an audience react when they hear a well-known aria sung in context. Nessun Dorma is probably the world’s most famous opera tune thanks to its popularity as a talent show staple, but nothing beats hearing it in the context of the opera’s story. It’s always fun when people don’t know it’s coming. The aria is a real show stopper and David sings it like nobody’s business!
How does Turandot resonate with a contemporary audience? Are there any social, political, or cultural themes that might strike a chord with them?
I think Edmonton Opera hit on the right tag line with “The answer is love.” Politics is getting nasty these days. In Turandot, you get to see the leader of a country opening up to love and letting go of hate, which has a transformative effect on her entire nation. I think there’s something to be learned there.
Which character would you love the opportunity to play in an opera?
Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Serail and Bégearss in The Ghosts of Versailles.
Which movie would make a great opera and which character would you play?
I think the world needs more opera comedies! So maybe a farce like Noises Off or Clue. I’d play the butler, of course!
Who is your favourite composer and why?
That’s so hard to answer! But to list a few…Mozart for the breathtaking beauty and honesty of his music, Strauss for his expansive, galactic orchestration, Rossini for the sheer joy his music exudes!
Which aria would you recommend that people search on YouTube because it is so impressive?
Graham Clark singing the Aria of the Worm from Ghosts of Versailles…it’s a phenomenal performance. He was actually nominated for an Emmy for that!
What is your favourite opera that you have seen live?
Salome is always a great ride and I’ve seen a couple of productions that just blew me away.
Use 4 words to describe Turandot:
You’ll be blown away!
To see James McLennan and the comic trio of Ping, Pang, and Pong make mischief on stage, buy your tickets to Turandot starting at just $40.