Giacomo Puccini’s wonderful Chinese-inspired score, which includes the super-hit aria Nessun dorma, is one of the main reasons his final opera Turandot– which tells the story of a princess who brutally executes the string of suitors who fail her riddle test – has remained so popular. It continues to receive performances around the world, despite the opera being incomplete at Puccini’s death in 1924, leaving composer and pianist Franco Alfano to craft an unsatisfying ending that doesn’t really ring true to the violent struggle preceding it. Not to mention an Orientalism that was already sitting uncomfortably in the last decades of the 20th century.

Turandot, Opera Australia Amber Wagner and Andeka Gorrotxategi in Opera Australia’s  Turandot. Photo © Keith Saunders

Rather than aiming for anything close to an ‘authentic’ ancient China, Graeme Murphy’s 1990 production leans into the fairy tale Exoticism of what Clive Paget once describedas “an Italian composer’s view of a German poet’s take on an Italian comedy based on a Persian-eye view of Chinese history,” rendered here on stage by an Australian director/choreographer (and revived by Kim Walker) in billowing fabric, kaleidoscoping fans and cascading ribbons of blood. Murphy’s...