A fire breathing dragon and giant pagoda set the scene for Turandot, the 2016 production for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, which is the biggest and most ambitious to date.

Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot is one of the greatest operas ever written, with brilliant melodies, a gripping story for those who need action and drama, plus an exotic setting and plenty of movement and visual splendour.

Performed on the over water stage, with views of the Sydney skyline, Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background, this is sure to be one of the most spectacular productions of Turandot ever staged, complete with a giant 9m high and 60m long dragon incorporating the Great Wall of China and an 18m high pagoda.

Listening to the sounds of the world’s most famous aria, Nessun Dorma, ringing out across Sydney Harbour will be a memory the audience will have forever.


Beautiful and powerful Turandot, Princess of Peking, is irresistable and brutal. She challenges her many suitors to answer three riddles on pain of death, executing any who cannot answer her riddles. No one has ever succeeded. Calaf, a brave Prince from a foreign land, falls instantly in love with Turandot and despite the wishes of his exiled father and the pleas of a slave girl who loves him, rings the gong and declares his love for the Princess. Turandot presents her riddles and the unknown Calaf answers and offers the ice-cold princess a riddle of his own, but Calaf’s riddle risks more than his own life, everyone else’s hang in the balance.

Chinese-American director Chen Shi-Zheng brings his unique perspective to Turandot’s desire to remain unmarried, putting the entire empire in jeopardy and it’s against this desperate backdrop that the story plays out. Dan Potra is both the set and costume designer.

Performers access the stage via a floating walkway and The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra is housed directly beneath the stage, in an area known as “The Underworld”. There is a total performing company of 136, comprising 78 cast members and 58 from the Orchestra. Two Surf Life Savers keep watch on the over water activities of performers and crew.


The temporary outdoor “opera house” includes a 3,000 seat grandstand, five food and beverage venues, sparkling wine outlets, merchandise outlets, plus box office, bathroom facilities, kitchens, dressing rooms and offices.

Turandot was Puccini’s last opera and was not quite finished on his death in 1924. One of his students wrote an ending that is performed today.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour Turandot runs from 24 March to 24 April 2016.

Sandra Tiltman   Photos: John Pond

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