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Puccini: Turandot / Serafin, Callas, Schwarzkopf


Release Date: 03/11/2008 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 09682   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Elisabetta FuscoGiulio MauriMaria CallasNicola Zaccaria,   ... 
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Dynamically paced and thoroughly idiomatic.

This Great Recordings of the Century revival of Puccini’s last opera is very welcome, although the performance has been reissued a number of times in various guises. Its virtues are a dynamically paced and thoroughly idiomatic account of the score from Serafin, and a highly imaginative performance from La Divina of the icy Chinese princess.

On record at least, performances of Turandot have been notable in giving listeners two prima donnas for the price of one. Thus on Erede’s 1955 set we have the hochdramatisch Inge Borkh paired with Renata Tebaldi; the latter also appears on Birgit Nilsson’s first recording, with Leinsdorf for RCA. Joan Sutherland’s later Decca
Read more set featured a memorable Montserrat Caball? as Liu, causing one reviewer to suggest that the two divas could have exchanged roles to equally good effect. Indeed Caball? herself later recorded the title role for EMI, although this time with Mirella Freni as Liu. Here on the 1957 recordings we have grand dames of the calibre of Callas and Schwarzkopf, no less, neither of whom might be thought to be obvious casting in their respective roles. Both had in fact sung their roles on stage in the past and reprised these for the purposes of the recording. The booklet includes a charming photo of the two ladies, who were mutual admirers, relaxing over a coffee, perhaps at the time of the sessions.

Callas sang the taxing role of Turandot a number of times early in her career, at a time when she was singing heavier roles than her later repertoire. In the intervening years her star had been very much in the ascendant and Walter Legge had quickly contracted her to record much of the core Italian repertoire for EMI at La Scala. Turandot was scheduled for July 1957 alongside Manon Lescaut, which she never sang on stage. Callas had not performed the role of the formidable princess for eight years, but her first entrance in In questa reggia is commanding, softening for the central section as she recalls the fate of her ancestress and the cause of her hatred of men. Towards the end of the aria the taxing high tessitura seems to pose her relatively few problems. She is equally memorable in the subsequent riddle scene with Calaf; first implacable as she announces the riddles, then increasingly desperate as Calaf guesses them correctly one by one. Her pleading with her father not to be given over to the Prince is most moving, her cruelty in the Third Act at Liu’s torture menacing, her subsequent softening and final acceptance of love for once made almost believable. Not a role that was central to Callas’s repertoire but a good example of her ability to breathe new life into an old warhorse.

Schwarzkopf as Liu similarly had not sung the role for some time (she made an early 78 of Liu’s two arias). She sings the part with her customary sensitivity to words and beauty of tone. Signore, ascolta is beautifully poised, with hushed dynamics; but as so often with this artist it seems a rather manufactured affair. In her Act 3 aria one cannot see (or hear) the wood for the trees of Schwarzkopf’s admittedly meticulous attention to dynamics and word-painting, so that the overall flow of the music is lost. Ultimately, for all her vocal perfection, she does not tug at the heartstrings like a Tebaldi or Caball? and one cannot escape the feeling that she is not entirely idiomatic in the role.

Eugenio Fernandi sings an imposing if unsubtle Calaf, characterising well throughout, especially in the riddle scene. Nessun dorma is given a traditionally big-boned performance, and the final duet with Turandot is suitably exultant. Smaller roles are taken by the likes of Nicola Zaccaria as Timur and the comprimario parts of the three courtiers are sung to perfection. There is a touching link with the past in that the singer portraying the old Emperor, Giuseppe Nessi, sang the role of Pong in the opera’s premiere in 1926. Here he sounds suitably venerable.

Serafin conducted one of the earliest performances of Turandot back in 1926 and his conducting here evinces a lifetime’s acquaintance with the work. He paces the opera with great skill, allowing the scherzo-like moments to come as a welcome contrast to the big set pieces. The end of the first act, for instance, builds to an impressive climax, with Puccini’s exotic Chinoiserie given its head.

Overall the remastering is good, although the balance favours the orchestra and solo voices; at times the chorus, by contrast, sounds rather distant and the big ensembles do not always make the desired impact. It’s a pity that Walter Legge was unable to record the work in stereo; Decca had done it for its recording of the selfsame opera two years previously, to good effect.

There are notes on the recording and artists, and a track-by-track synopsis. For those with access to a computer, the libretto can be downloaded from a PDF file on the second CD.

-- Ewan McCormick, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Elisabetta Fusco (Soprano), Giulio Mauri (Baritone), Maria Callas (Soprano),
Nicola Zaccaria (Bass), Giuseppe Nessi (Tenor), Giulio Mauri (Bass),
Mario Borriello (Baritone), Piero de Palma (Tenor), Renato Ercolani (Tenor),
Mario Borriello (Baritone), Pinuccia Perotti (Mezzo Soprano), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano),
Eugenio Fernandi (Tenor)
Conductor:  Tullio Serafin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Italy 
Length: 2 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Notes: La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy (07/09/1957 - 07/13/1957); La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy (07/15/1957) 

Sound Samples

Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Popolo di Pekino!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Padre! Mio Padre!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Perduta la battaglia
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Gira la cote! Gira!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Perche tarda la luna?
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: La, sui monti dell'est
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: O giovinetto!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Figlio, che fai?
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Fermo! che fai? T'arresta!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Silenzio, ola!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Guardalo, Pong!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Non indugiare!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Signore, ascolta!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Non piangere, Lui!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act I: Ah! per i/ultima volta!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene I: Ola, Pang! Ola, Pong!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene I: O Cina, o Cina
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene I: Ho una casa nell'Honana
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene I: O mondo, pieno di pazzi innamorati!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene I: Addio, amore!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Gravi, enormi ed imponenti
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Un giuramento atroce mi costringe
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Diecimilia anni al nostro imperatore!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: In questa Reggia
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Straniero, ascolta!....Nella cupa notte
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Guizza al pari di fiamma
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Gelo che ti da foco
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Gloria, o vincitore
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Figlio del cielo!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Tre enigmi m'hai proposto!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act II - Scene II: Ai tuoi piedi ci prostriam
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Cosi comanda Turandot
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Nessum dorma!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Tu che guardi le stelle
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Pricipessa divina!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Quel nome!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: L'amore?...Tanto amore, segreto e inconfessato
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Tu, che di gei sei cinta
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Liu...bonta
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Principessa di morte!
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Che e mai di me?
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene I: Del primo pianto, si....La mia gloria
Turandot (2008 Digital Remaster), Act III - Scene II: Diecimilia anni al nostro Imperatore!

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 too bad there were no dvd recordings then........ April 26, 2013 By aries n. (new york, NY) See All My Reviews "I used to own the performance on 78 records years ago. I had read that Callas and Schwarzkopf were very friendly and although Callas was not the greatest Turandot it still is a wonderful recording. Certainly interesting." Report Abuse
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