June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

PBS (Wed., June 9, 8 p.m. ET)

With all the hard feelings recently between China and the NATO countries, it’s heartening to turn on American television and see a huge multinational cast perform an Italian opera before an appreciative throng in the grandeur of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Taped last September, the $15 million production of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot was the first to be presented in the actual setting of the opera’s story about a determined suitor risking his life to win over a stone-hearted princess. This Turandot, staged by brilliant Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and conducted by Zubin Mehta, is a spectacle of such magnitude that the TV camera hardly knows where to look. You don’t have to be an operaphile to be impressed. The two-hour Turandot (9-11 p.m.) is preceded by an hour-long look at the vast human resources that went into the production—including 300 extras from the Chinese Army who served as spearcarriers in this peaceful enterprise.

Bottom Line: Stay till the fat lady sings

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