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Notes and Editorial Reviews
This set has been a crucial part of opera lovers' collections for more than 40 years, and it's still a necessity. The LPs distorted badly at the end of the second act--and with Nilsson and everyone else screaming their heads off, you can hardly blame the engineers. But it did sound as if the cast were throwing trash can lids at one another, and so when the CD era came and the set was re-released in 1988 hopes were high. They were dashed quickly however when it was discovered that the re-mastering included removing most of the bass, presumably to give Bjoerling's bright but certainly smaller sound parity with Nilsson's almost overwhelming presence. And it still distorted. This go-round it's much better, although even at that the high-C
Nilsson and Bjoerling take together at the close of "In questa reggia" tends to blare, and the end of Act 2 is far from spotless. But it won't bother you unless you're looking for trouble.
But the singing is ravishing. Nilsson is still the Turandot to equal (she recorded it three times and it almost never varied an iota), with blazing, secure high notes and an icy security that fairly knocks you for a loop. Her third-act transformation is not very moving (you must refer to Callas and somewhat less, Caballé for any character development), but who cares? All the current Turandots either miss notes or wobble all over them, so Nilsson remains irreplaceable. And Bjoerling! The beauty of the sound on this, his final recording, is almost too much: the plangency, the sweetness, the focus are simply stunning. "Non piangere Liu" is about as caring as possible, and if you ever hear a better balanced and phrased "Nessun dorma" let me know.
Tebaldi still had the high, floating pianissimos needed for Liu (although she's not ideal for the role--it really requires a true lyric, and by 1959 she was pretty "spinto"), and she treats the text sensitively. Giorgio Tozzi is thoroughly involved and gives a warm performance as Timur, and Erich Leinsdorf leads a thrilling, red-blooded account of the score. This set still is No. 2, after the glorious--and surprising--Sutherland/Pavarotti/Caballé set under Mehta on Decca from 1972. Own both and you can't go wrong.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Works on This Recording
Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
Leonardo Monreale (Bass),
Giorgio Tozzi (Bass),
Alessio De Paolis (Tenor),
Mario Sereni (Baritone),
Tommaso Frascati (Tenor),
Piero de Palma (Tenor),
Adelio Zagonara (Baritone),
Anna di Stasio (Soprano),
Jussi Björling (Tenor),
Nelly Pucci (Soprano),
Renata Tebaldi (Soprano),
Birgit Nilsson (Soprano),
Myriam Funari (Soprano)
Rome Opera House Orchestra,
Rome Opera House Chorus
Written: 1926; Italy
Venue: Opera House, Rome, Italy
Length: 115 Minutes 1 Secs.
Notes: Opera House, Rome, Italy (07/03/1959 - 07/11/1959)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Butterfly in Reverse? February 8, 2014
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Puccini composed two operas with an Oriental focus- Madama Butterfly and Turandot, and I enjoyed comparing the merits and attractions of both. Whereas Butterfly ends in tragedy caused by jilted love, Turandot's story line shows a near reversal- the ultimate triumph of love over seemingly impossible odds. As one listens to this classic RCA Turandot from the late 1950's, the contrast between these two operas becomes both obvious and intriguing. Butterfly's essential aesthetic core is a delicate, honest, heartfelt longing for the restoration of an interrupted romance, with the relationship existing at the outset of the opera. Turandot, on the other hand, features an austere and even cruel barrier imposed by Princess Turandot on all prospective suitors, thus preventing any substantial romantic connection to develop until the opera's very end. Erich Leinsdorf, the Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus, plus a top tier lineup of operatic stars portray this emotionally rigid story line in a gripping performance. Birgit Nilsson is a coldly aloof Turandot, Jussi Bjoerling's Prince Calaf has plenty of determined gusto, Giorgio Tozzi is a highly effective Timur, and Mario Sereni (Ping), Piero de Palma (Pang), and Tommaso Frascati (Pong) are thoroughly irritating Chinese bureaucrats. Nevertheless, in my view, the supreme achievement in this recording is the poignant portrayal of Turandot's loyal slave servant Liu by the fabulous Renata Tebaldi. Further, the enhanced role of the chorus is extremely important, perhaps more so than any other Puccini opera. Having said all this, one needs to acknowledge that the bleakness of Puccini's story line, which gives little if any hope of a positive resolution until the dramatic conclusion, may not connect well with some listeners. Princess Turandot's continual cruelty and other-worldly indifference to emotional nuances, and the shenanigans of Ping, Pang, and Pong, do not make for particularly easy or comfortable listening... but that's as Puccini intended it, I suppose. With regard to the technical qualities of this recording, honesty requires that we recognize that it does reflect its age, at least to some extent. RCA's re-mastering for its Living Stereo series has given us a perfectly listenable recording, but its sonic qualities are based on 1950's recording technology. Overall, Turandot is a powerfully dramatic work with luxurious singing, thus doing credit to Puccini at the end of his composing career (in fact, he died before its completion, with the final scene being developed by Franco Alfano). Despite the minor reservations noted, I can and do recommend the Leinsdorf Turandot to one and all."