OUR Friend in Perpetual High Dudgeon came storming into the office the other day, whistling and mumbling. His whistles were from the stirring patriotic theme in "Turandot," the Puccini stem-winder now at the Lyric under the auspices of the Baltimore Opera Company. His mumblings were something else.
Asked why he was in High Dudgeon on a sunlit October day, our friend relied: "It's that Calaf. He is unspeakable. A real louse." From the tirade that followed, we surmised that Calaf was the demi-hero of the opera, a prince in disguise who was really turned on by Turandot. To achieve the conquest of the virginal ice princess, he was willing to watch his own father and the loyal slave girl, Liu, tortured rather than reveal his name, which as the result of a gratuitous dare he made, would lead to his death.
"So?" we inquired unfeelingly. "So," snorted our friend, "poor little Liu, who had loved this scoundrel forever, put a knife in her gut rather than betray Calaf. And what had he to say? Only, 'Poor Liu, you are dead.' Then he went on to seduce Turandot."
In an effort to calm our friend into a state of Low Dudgeon, we mentioned Pinkerton, the unspeakable American in Madama Butterfly, who mock-marries Cio-cio-san, deserts her, then returns to adopt the son born of their union. At which point, poor Butterfly put a knife in her gut.
"Pretty awful," said our friend. "But at least Pinkerton expressed some remorse and displayed some paternal responsibility. He was no dead-beat dad. For Calaf, there is no redeeming feature. None!"
As he made ready to depart, now in Low Dudgeon, we asked if he liked the opera. "Yes," he replied, "a lot more than your music critic did."