Great Performances: Season 27, Episode 16

Turandot at the Forbidden City of Beijing (9 Jun. 1999)

TV Episode  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 97 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 2 critic

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Episode cast overview:
Giovanna Casolla ...
Sergej Larin ...
Calaf (as Sergeij Larin)
Barbara Frittoli ...
Carlo Colombara ...
José Fardilha ...
Francesco Piccoli ...
Carlo Allemano ...
Aldo Bottion ...
Vittorio Vitelli ...
Un Mandarino
Yuanyuan Liu ...
Executioner (as Liu Yuanyuan)
Zubin Mehta ...
Himself - Conductor


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opera | See All (1) »






Release Date:

9 June 1999 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Calaf may have been based on the singer Tansen, who commanded such a high price for performing that only the Sultan of India himself could hire him. See more »


Referenced in The Turandot Project (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Fantastic production values and a quite unique performance...
28 March 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I have a big soft spot for Puccini's final opera Turandot. It mayn't be my favourite work of his, but again I adore Puccini so much, but having sung in the chorus for it it's bound to have left an impression on me. This performance is unique and quite wonderful, not perfect, and perhaps not my first choice(either the 1988 Met performance or the 1983 production with Marton and Ricciarelli), but the pros do outweigh the cons and it is worth looking out for overall.

Firstly, apart from too many shots of the chorus, who are a little static, this is fantastic visually. With gorgeous settings, a huge stage and oriental costumes- Liu's costume is perhaps too elaborate for a slave girl though- it certainly looks authentic, and the colours are so rich and beautiful to look at. The camera work and picture quality are generally very good, but the sound quality not so much, a little too thin at times. I did love the staging, especially the eye-catching Chinese traditional culture elements( Chinese martial art, dance, calligraphy, ancient costumes, Peking opera and drums), making it the most authentic and real Turandot I've seen.

Dramatically, it is also mostly convincing, with many moments of refinements. Liu's death scene is incredibly emotional and the Riddle scene evoked chills, but there are also one or two disappointments, with the final duet a little limp with Casolla and Larin lacking chemistry and Ping, Pong and Pang's trio is performed beautifully but sidelined by some weird character affectations. Also you can see them with a handkerchief, calabash and abacus, I liked that they used props but I was a little confused at the significance of those three items in particular. The chorus are vocally great, but apart from a genuinely awe-inspiring reaction to the moon are a little static, and a lot of this had to do with how they were situated on stage.

Musically, it is superb, Turandot is Puccini's most orchestrally rich score, and the orchestra play it so powerfully with many moments and beauty and while there are moments like at the start and a couple of spots in Act 2 where the tempos are a tad exaggerated, Zubin Mehta's conducting is very efficient and authoritative. When it comes to the performances, it was a case of the singing being better than the acting, but there is still much to like.

The two most consistent performances are Barbara Frittoli's Liu and Carlo Colombara's Timur. Frittoli is very poignant in this role, I often find that Liu is the one who steals the show and the character who I identify most with, here is no exception. Frittoli is heavenly vocally with superb pianissimo singing; her acting, which I can find mechanical, is involved and moving. Colombara is noble and firm, making me cry as he mourned Liu, and he is powerful and resonant vocally.

Giovanna Casolla is vocally thrilling as Turandot, one of the taxing soprano roles there is, and acts the riddle scene with a lot of fire. Sergej Larin sings wonderfully, with a competent(if lacking Corelli's intensity) Nessun Dorma, but his acting is rather stolid with facial expressions that I found off-putting. Ping, Pong and Pang are well matched and manage to put their all into what they've got.

All in all, unique and visually fantastic. A perfect performance? No. A worth watching performance? Absolutely yes. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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