Notes and Editorial Reviews
Turandot – Maria Guleghina
Altoum – Javier Agulló
Timur – Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Calaf – Marco Berti
Liù – Alexia Voulgaridou
Ping – Fabio Previati
Pang – Vincenç Esteve
Pong – Roger Padullés
Un mandarino – Ventseslav Anastasov
Valencia Regional Government Choir (Cor de la Gegneralitat Valenciana)
Valencian Community Orchestra (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana)
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Chen Kai-ge, stage director
Recorded live from the Palau de les arts "Reina Sofía", Valencia, 2008.
Making of Turandot
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (opera) / Dolby Digital 2.0 (bonus)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish (opera) / English (bonus)
Running time: 120 mins (opera) + 36 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
Recorded at the spectacular new Santiago Calatrava-designed opera house in Valencia, Spain in May, 2008, this new production of Turandot is almost as magnificent as the Arts complex itself. Of course, there's no such thing as a simple production of Turandot; indeed, extravagance has almost become as much a raison d'etre for this opera as Birgit Nilsson used to be. Just look at the DVD competition: Franco Zeffirelli's for the Met is possibly his most lavish ever, with gazillions of extras and thousands of yards of silk; and one from Vienna under Valery Gergiev is almost unreal, with characters that are half mechanical, in an explosion of color and imagination that does nothing to enlighten the drama. (It features Luciano Berio's completion of the opera, which is not very appealing, and Gabriele Schnaut wobbles her way through the title role.) A Harold Prince production from Vienna in 1983 is bountiful as well, and has Eva Marton at her best and José Carreras in fine form.
The production under consideration here is stunning. Designed by Liu King with lush, multi-textured costumes by Chen Tong Xun, it looks authentically Chinese/Royal, with exquisite colors, a marvelous pagoda, and a red-carpeted staircase rising seemingly to heaven. Turandot alone has four dresses; she adds one to the other in mid-question scene, which struck me as odd; Ping Pang and Pong look as if a paint factory had exploded in their vicinity.
The direction, by film director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), is less imaginative than you might expect. Granted, most of the action in this opera is proscribed by the situations, but what good does it do to portray Emperor Altoum as a drunk? Nor is it particularly clever to have lots of extras twirling white umbrellas and holding long-finger-nailed hands up to their faces. It's all good to look at but there are no new insights.
The gigantic-voiced Maria Guleghina is the Turandot. A rudimentary actress, she poses well and looks royal. Vocally the role holds no fears for her; and in fact, she sings more consistently on key than I've ever heard her in a live performance, including the mammoth high Bs and Cs. But I find her a graceless singer who goes more for volume than ideas, and her breaking of words in the middle for breath is a vile, unmusical habit. In the question scene we are treated to "Quel grido e quell[breath]la morte" for the sake of the high note. Bad planning and poor musicianship. And in non-loud moments she holds back too much; she entirely lacks the spontaneity to make her third-act transformation credible. The audience, however, seems to love her.
Marco Berti has what it takes for Calaf--a big voice, a pair of high Cs, stamina, nice generic passion, and sweet singing in "Non piangere Liu". Without being too unkind, however, I must acknowledge that when others are singing he looks like a stupid teddy bear, utterly uninterested in what's going on around him. Alexia Voulgaridou makes an enchanting Liu, singing with sensitivity to the text and high notes impeccable whether piano or forte. Alexander Tsymbalyuk impresses as Timur more with volume than understanding. The three masks are superb--musical, funny, bitter. And given the characterization of Altoum, we dare not judge what kind of voice Javier Agullo possesses.
Conductor Zubin Mehta leads a performance alternately shimmering, thrilling, and detailed; he gives the work the emotional wallop that his Calaf and Turandot lack. The playing of the Valencia forces is as grand as the sets and costumes. This performance, when all is said and done, is effective; but when you compare it with Marton and Domingo in their primes at the Met, or Marton and Carreras from Vienna, it doesn't quite make it.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
Marco Berti (Tenor),
Maria Guleghina (Soprano),
Alexia Voulgaridou (Soprano),
Fabio Previati (Baritone),
Vincenç Esteve (Tenor)
Valencia Community Orchestra,
Valencia Regional Government Choir
Written: 1926; Italy
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