PUCCINI: Turandot (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)

PUCCINI: Turandot (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Lise Lindstrom (Turandot)/Marco Berti (Calaf)/ Eri Nakamura (Liu)/ Raymond Aceto (Timur)/ Dionysios Sourbis (Ping)/ David Butt Philip (Pang)/ Doug Jones (Pong)/ Alasdair Elliott (Altoum)/ Michel De Souza (Mandarin)/
Orchestra: Royal Opera House Orch. and Chorus/ Henrik Nanasi
Director: Andrei Serban
Studio: Opus Arte OA BD7142 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1081p HD 
Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA Surround 5.0
Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Korean, Spanish
No Region Code 
Extras: Turandot – An Introduction; Behind the Masks; Cast Gallery, (12 min.)
Length: 125 minutes
Rating: ****

So what exactly is this critical juncture mentioned in the heading? Why “Nessun dorma” of course, at the beginning of Act III. Though Marco Berti does a creditable job throughout the opera, and his acting is very good, he seems undernourished and emotionally absent during the most famous tenor aria ever written, and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t take a toll in coloring the impression of the whole production. This opera, which tormented Puccini almost to his dying day, is complex and harmonically advanced, and the music is knitted to the storyline, so that Calaf’s resolve at the beginning of the final act is critical from a number of standpoints, besides being far and away the most egregiously beautiful thing in the entire production. It is no wonder that when Franco Alfano was called upon to complete what was essentially a raw and naked final act with not much to go on, he decided to incorporate this aria as a good method of ending the opera with a bang.

Toscanini didn’t like much of what Alfano had done, feeling that too little of Puccini’s music was used and too much was Alfano’s own. Therefore, he simply truncated the third act to the way it is normally heard today, which, to be honest, is not very satisfactory, but it’s all we have. So the tenor aria sets the emotional tone for the conclusion, and Berti simply fails to deliver the requite “umph” needed.

Lise Lindstrom (Turandot) and Eri Nakamura (Liu) provide excellent foils in this rather thin plot edifice that survives only when the two sopranos are in top gun form, which they are here. The brilliantly decorative sets add to the visual delight, as colorful as the Ringling Brothers Circus, and the nefarious Ping, Pang, and Pong are suitably disconcerting in their oddly moral ambivalence. Maestro Nanasi galvanizes the cast to heights of splendor, and the video and audio are superb, making this a recommendable production even with the Calaf failing to provide the expected vocal thrills.

—Steven Ritter

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