In May of 1997, Zubin Mehta conducts and Zhang Yimou directs Puccini's "Turnadot" in Florence. A year later, they stage nine performances in Beijing. This documentary focuses on the China ... See full summary »
Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (... See full summary »
A visual feast with some strong things musically, if lacking in drama
'Turandot' has always been close to my heart since performing it nine years ago in the chorus, which at the time was a huge achievement for me. To this day, this reviewer still considers it one of Puccini's best operas along with 'Tosca', 'La Boheme' and 'Madama Butterfly'.
While perhaps my least favourite 'Turandot' on DVD, this is still a decent production from Bregenz. It is a feast visually, productions of 'Turandot' are often high in spectacle, especially if directed by Franco Zeffirelli at the Met. And to me Bregenz's production has some of the most awe-inspiringly striking visuals and spectacle that certainly is spectacular and certainly hold their own amongst other productions of 'Turandot' on DVD.
Musically, there are many strong things. The orchestra play with all the hair-raising power, tender lyricism, rousing grandeur and poetic nuance that Puccini's music needs, and throughout they sound positively majestic. The chorus, whose role in 'Turandot' is huge, as always sound splendid, while their acting is a fine mix of chilling, joyous and (in Liu's death scene, which did reduce me to tears as it should, it is the opera's most emotional scene) remorseful. The conducting allows the music to breathe in the more intimate parts ("Signore Ascolta" and "Non Piangere Liu"), but is fiery and authoritative enough to keep the drama alive in particularly the chorus work.
On a technical level the DVD is very good. The video directing captures the spectacle at an exciting rate but doesn't forget the intricate parts too. The picture quality captures all the colour and detail brilliantly, and the projections and effects are as vivid on screen as they would have been on stage. The sound is occasionally compressed and tinny, which is not uncommon with outdoor spaces, but the balance between the orchestra and singers is very well done, with the orchestra being particularly well-captured.
Yu Guanqun's Liu often steals the show, not surprising seeing as Liu often does make the biggest impression in 'Turandot'. She's got the right youthful quality to her voice while also a silky richness which is also apt, she is very musical too and incredibly natural and affecting as an actress, her death scene heart-breaking. Michail Ryssov is a sympathetic Timur, and the Ping, Pong and Pang bring the right balance of twisted humour, Commedia Dell Arte and philosophical wisdom.
Despite these great things, there are drawbacks, the biggest two being some of the staging and Mlada Khudoley's Turandot. The staging does have moments, with great moments and some of the intimate parts done very moving, but the more dramatic could have had more intensity and there are touches like Calaf as a Puccini lookalike that seemed intriguing at first but it wasn't explored enough and failed to not only add anything to the drama but giving it clarity. Khudoley much of the time sounds unsteady and shrill complete with strident phrasing, and she never really fully connects with the role with little of the vengeful ice princess to when she melts in remorse and love in Act 3 coming through. The change isn't convincing and neither are those two very crucial elements in general to Turandot's character.
Riccardo Massi got a mixed reaction from me. The voice is great, honeyed in tone while with the necessary power and bright ping. While not extraordinary his "Nessun Dorma" is good with not much at all wrong but not standout-worthy. Where he is let down is in his acting, which is very stock gestures and stand and deliver in emotion though with hints of personality. Even for the role, Manuel von Senden is pretty feeble as the Emperor, but the role is so small it's not a huge problem.
All in all, decent if not as mind-blowing as it could have had potential to be. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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