Big in visual spectacle, high in musical intensity and generally solid in overall performances- a very good if not definitive Turandot.
Turandot is a wonderful opera, and one I have great fondness for as it
was the first opera I ever sang in(in the chorus that is). Whether it
is my favourite Puccini opera I am not sure, I'd say I prefer Tosca and
La Boheme, but if not quite top 3 Puccini it is definitely top 5. This
is a very good production, not definitive or perfect, though I don't
think it was trying to be, but definitely not one I'd immediately
disregard. Do I recommend other productions of Turandot over it? I do
prefer the Marton/Domingo, Marton/Carreras, Guleghina/Giordani,
Dimitrova/Martinucci and Corelli productions. It is at least better
than the Schnaut/Botha performance, which did have its interest
points(such as an alternate ending by Berio, though for me inferior to
Alfano's) but heavily flawed at the same time.
This production from Verona does look exquisite as you'd expect from
Franco Zeffirelli. The costumes are colourful and suitably oriental and
the sets are highly elaborate and just as eye-catching. Just as
impressive is the visual spectacle which gives the right amount of
intensity where it is needed but also gives us aspects of everyday
Chinese life and culture. The video directing and picture quality are
excellent. Musically it is wonderful as well. The orchestral playing is
powerful and lyrical in their appropriate moments, such as in the first
chorus of Act 1 and Liu's death scene, as well as spine-chilling in the
three riddles scene. The conducting shows an energetic reading that
does nothing in undermining the drama in any way. The chorus, who have
a lot to do, are hair-raising in Act 1 and are just as passionate in
the other two acts.
The singing is generally solid. Nobody is definitive in the roles, but
considering the strong competition on DVD and on record that is a tall
order. Maria Guleghina does have moments of shrillness in her upper
register in the three riddles scene, but does have the power and force
needed for the role. Dramatically she is icy and compelling. The late
Salvatore Licitra is a good, if not great, Calaf. He does have a strong
voice, and has most of the notes, but there are a few moments of
strain(the encore of Nessun Dorma is better than the first time he
sings in, personally I felt his singing was stronger in Non Piangere
Liu). He is more motivated than I remember him being though, which is a
good thing. Tamar Ivéri sings Liu beautifully if not always
passionately and is affecting in Act 3. Luiz Faria's Timur is noble and
moving, and Ping, Pong and Pang steal their scenes.
The sound is reasonably good for an open-space production. Occasionally
it does have a somewhat discreet quality, but compared to the tinny
quality I've heard before it was good enough for me. Overall, visually
stunning and thrilling on the whole, if not one of my favourites. 8/10
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