Of Puccini's two forays into Orientalism, Madama Butterfly is the one that makes a stab (ha ha) at realism—or at least at verismo, the overheated Italian subgenre that tried to show a grittier side of life while still giving audiences the high C's they craved. But the other, Turandot, is pure fairy tale: based on a 1762 commedia dell'arte play adapted, in turn, from an ancient "Thousand and One Nights" legend. Butterfly designers almost always attempt to plausibly recreate a Japanese house (paper screens, Mt. Fuji in the distance, etc.); Turandot designers are limited only by their budget. (Smoking opium while sketching is recommended.) André Barbe's sets and costumes for Seattle Opera's production, opening Sat., Aug. 4, look appropriately over-the-top—drenched in blood-red, naturally, for this tale of the virginal princess who, vowing never to wed, kills any spousal candidate who can't answer three riddles. Asher Fisch, who's worked miracles with the Seattle Symphony in Wagner and Strauss, conducts; sopranos Lori Phillips and Marcy Stonikas share the title role; and Antonello Palombi and Luis Chapa alternate as Calaf, the tenor hero. He's the character who gets the opera's soaring signature tune, "Nessun dorma"—and also gets to be judged by an audience who all know the aria by heart. Hopefully we'll treat him less cruelly than Turandot treats her suitors. GAVIN BORCHERT [See Gavin Borchert's review.]

Sat., Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 5, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 12, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 17, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m., 2012

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