It’s is not the Metropolitan, Glyndebourne or the Royal Opera, however, whatever the mojo is to make an opera buzz the Turkiston Opera has mojo.
With a fraction of the resources of the big boys it works. The setting of the Turkiston Theatre is majestic, built on a slim elevated hill with view across its own parkland. Is this Corbusier with an Islamic influence? Of course not, just seems that way if Corbusier had been Russian, working during the Soviet age, ostracised and sent to an outpost.
Once inside the Turkiston Theatre the anticipation is as exciting as every opera should be. The Royal Opera entrance may be regal gilded foyer, cramped once until extended with a tube station style annex. Glyndebourne may have rich crimson brickwork winding its way upwards to open balconies, but it is certainly not the entrance of Kings.
The Turkiston is the very theatre to covey the great works of Wagner, Verdi, Puccini or Bizet. The company was conceived to show great art and so why not show great art in great buildings. The foyer is the grandest of all grand settings. White marble displays a Soviet era in love with Opera. Opulent staircases flow in all directions around kitsch plastic flowers set in a central garden. Somehow it was amusing but not brash. However, we should have worn ball gowns and top hats because of the garden or the marble, or both. Because everything is grand, everything built to show off, except everything is living in a past era.
For the majestic size of the theatre the atrium is small. Maybe 700 seats. Except they are king size seats for the Soviet elite, no cheap seats for the proletariat. Except all seats are cheap, £3, and no more than 60 sold. Oh what a shame!
Back to an Opera with mojo. The stage is a vast expanse of boards, certainly bigger than Glyndebourne or the Coliseum. The staging is crumpled together, does it matter? The lighting chases the actors, does it matter? The chorus is hurried, does it matter? Tosca was dynamite, this is truly where it matters. The conductor worked his full 36 set orchestra until they lifted the roof. Truly this is where it mattered. Was Tosca as good as the Met? Yes, for it had mojo and this is where an Opera is made or left broken, and this opera left us buzzing in our seats.
On stage the magnificence of Opera approached it’s grandest. Every of one of the 60 came with passion to cheer and appalled as 700. We were stimulated and engaged and mesmerised as Cavaradossi was shot dead and Tosca jumped from prison walls majestically set high on the stage.
As the curtain closed the sound of 700 applauded. When the cast took their bow, a dozen admirers hurried to be the first with their bright bouquets for the “stars” to thank them for their majestic presence and of course their generosity with their bountiful mojo.