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Puccini: Turandot / Licata, Foster, Kwon, Macfarlane, Corcoran [blu-ray]

Puccini / Licata / Orchestra Victoria / Macfarlane
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Opera Australia   Catalog #: 56033  
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  David CorcoranGraeme MacfarlaneSusan FosterShane Lowrencev,   ... 
Conductor:  Andrea Licata
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Opera Australia ChorusVictoria Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

With Rosario La Spina cast as Calaf, Susan Foster as the icy princess and Hyeseoung Kwon as the loyal slave girl Liù, the singing throughout is superlative. The choreography and direction of Graeme Murphy is visionary, add the set and costume designs of Kristian Fredrikson, and the lighting of John Drummond Montgomery and this production is glorious in its beauty.

Giacomo Puccini
TURANDOT

Turandot – Susan Foster
Calaf – Rosario La Spina
Liù –
Read more Hyeseoung Kwon
Timur – Jud Arthur
A Mandarin – Shane Lowrencev
Ping – Andrew Moran
Pong – David Corcoran
Pang – Graeme Macfarlane
Altoum – Benjamin Rasheed

Opera Australia Children’s Chorus
(chorus preparation: Anthony Hunt)
Opera Australia Chorus
(chorus master: Michael Black)
Orchestra Victoria
Andrea Licata, conductor

Graeme Murphy, stage director, choreographer
Kristian Fredrikson, set and costume designer
John Drummond Montgomery, lighting designer

Recorded live at the Arts Centre Melbourne, on 20 and 25 April 2012
Bonus:
- Cast gallery

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 124 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)

R E V I E W: 3662710.az_PUCCINI_Turandot_Andrea_Licata.html

PUCCINI Turandot Andrea Licata, cond; Susan Foster (Turandot); Rosario La Spina (Calaf); Hye Seoung Kwon (Liù); Jud Arthur (Timur); Andrew Moran (Ping); Graeme Macfarlane (Pang); David Corcoran (Pong); Benjamin Rasheed (Altoum); Orchestra Victoria; Opera Australia Ch & Children’s Ch OPERA AUSTRALIA Blu-ray: 56033BD (124:00) 2 CDs: OPOZ56034CD (117: 44) Live: Melbourne 2012


Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot has always been as much about spectacle as it is about storytelling, its exotic oriental locale and exotic, ear-pleasing music striving to overcome the rather unlikable libretto. Past masters of operatic spectacle, such as Franco Zefferelli, have taken numerous opportunities to stage this popular work and several good ones have been caught on DVD as well, but none better than this Opera Australia production from Melbourne, recorded in April of 2012 and reviewed here on Blu-ray disc.


The production by director and choreographer Graeme Murphy and designer Kristian Fredrikson is not new, appearing first in Sydney in 1990. It has even made a previous video appearance, to be found on a Kultur Video of a 1991 staging. Unlike most of Zefferelli’s work the magic here does not begin with lavish detailed sets, but with the pageantry and the choreography that allows the colorful visual element to flow right along with Puccini’s rich score. Yes, there are lavish oriental costumes, yes, there are impressive stage effects (like the entry and byplay of the executioner and his muscular retinue, or the emergence of Turandot and her attendants from beneath the Emperor’s 20-foot-high skirts), but it is the marvelous coordinated movement of dancers, chorus, and principal singers, and the innovative colorful dancing that consistently catch the eye.


All the activity does slow long enough to tell the story, and the singers are strong as well. Frankly, it is refreshing to see a Turandot without an Eve Marton or a Maria Guleghina, two powerful singers who have pretty much dominated the title role for the last 30 years. Opera Australia instead gives us American dramatic soprano Susan Foster, who brings a bit more warmth and musicality to the ice princess than is usually heard. Foster provides plenty of heft to sing over Puccini’s often dense score without resorting to screech level to be heard, as is unfortunately the case in some other recent productions. I had not previously encountered Australian tenor Rosario La Spina but apparently he has been associated with Opera Australia for some time. Here he turns in a strong vocal performance as the prince, Calaf, and is dramatically an asset as well for an opera company that sometimes struggles to field adequate tenors. Korean lyric soprano Hye Seoung Kwon tugs at our heartstrings in the role of the steadfast servant girl, Liù, as only the best in the role are wont to do, and Jud Arthur also performs with distinction as Timur, Calaf’s aged father. The baritone of Andrew Moran sounds quavery and barely adequate for the role of Ping, but he and his two mates, Pang and Pong, sound just fine when singing in unison. The Opera Australia chorus is quite marvelous in this production; they are the real stars of the show, along with director Murphy, who should be given full credit for this delightful creation.


In a previous video review I praised a set with Maria Guleghina from the Arena di Verona as better than most, and it still is, but now this Opera Australia set in breathtaking high definition Blu-ray video goes right to the top of the list. The previous recording of this staging on Kultur I mentioned above seems to have some issues with audio and video quality, and I believe the 2012 cast seen here is the stronger one as well. Opera Australia has also issued the performance on audio CDs, and in that format we find a much stronger field of competition, stretching back nearly 80 years. The trio of lead singers heard here is quite fine in the moment, but cannot match up vocally with Cigna, Merli, and Olivero, or Sutherland, Pavarotti, and Caballe, or Nilsson, Corelli, and Scotto, just to mention a few. As usual, Opera Australia’s production values are first-class with handsome booklets in both sets and subtitles in several languages. My advice is to stick with the classic sets on audio CD, but snap this one up on Blu-ray; you will be happy you did.


FANFARE: Bill White
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Works on This Recording

1.
Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  David Corcoran (Tenor), Graeme Macfarlane (Tenor), Susan Foster (Soprano),
Shane Lowrencev (Bass), Hyeseoung Kwon (Soprano), Rosario La Spina (Tenor),
Jud Arthur (Bass), Andrew Moran (Baritone), Benjamin Rasheed (Tenor)
Conductor:  Andrea Licata
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Opera Australia Chorus,  Victoria Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Italy 

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