This was a joyous surprise. I was not looking forward to watching this Met production of Turandot, mainly because I am not a big fan of Marcello Giordani's. In the event, it turned out to be the most successful Turandot that I have ever seen. Zeffirelli's sets and costumes are breathtaking and the production is imbued with the sense of detail that is Zeffirelli's trademark. Nor has a Turandot ever sounded better than here under Andres Nelsons' competent baton.
Also on the plus side is Maria Guleghina in the lead role. Despite being a fraction of the size of any other Turandot that I have experienced she has all the necessary strength and stamina, as well as a beautiful voice of course. Marina Poplavskaya steals the show as Liu, as Lius usually do. She has a stunning first act aria and later, as she kills herself she provides the essential plot detail that makes the story hang together, saying to Turandot: "For by my silence I shall win your devotion".
The libretto of this opera is based on an Italian commedia dell'arte play, which helps to explain the perfunctory characterisations. I have probably seen enough productions of Turandot for this not to worry me too much. Nevertheless, I am still slightly surprised as Calaf looks on in disinterest as Liu kills herself. One thing that occurred to me at this point that I have not noticed before is: why don't they start to torture Calaf's father to obtain the vital piece of information after Liu is dead? Anyway, back to Marcello Giordani, he is surprisingly good. He really nails Nessun Dorma and I was thoroughly convinced by the final scene where he and Maria Guleghina show us that these two unsympathetic characters are really a pair of lovesick softies. I really love the final scene of Turandot. I am not one of those who spurn Alfano's completion: I think it really works. As the two lovebirds join hands and the orchestra strikes up a reprise of Nessun Dorma there are tears rolling down my cheeks. Which is what opera is all about.
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