Turandot at The Royal Opera House
The original story of Turandot is centred on the epic works of the 12th century Persian poet, Nizani, based on Turad-Dokht (daughter of Turan). This was Puccini’s last opera and in fact he never completed the third Act at the time of his death in 1924. The ending of this opera was completed by Alfano, based on sketches left behind by Puccini. The original premier of Turandot was held in Milan in 1926 and conducted by Toscanini. Luciano Berio was also sanctioned to make a new completion for the opera, but this is rarely performed.
This great production by Andrei Serban was first seen in 1984 and at times is still as exciting today as it was then. The crowd scenes are still integrated within the production itself, based on a circular stage with three different levels. It is the same set for all three acts, but with different interpretations of action in the centre stage.
The opera needs three great lead singers, with the voices of the unknown Prince Calaf and Princess Turandot needing substantial dramatic voices. The third lead, Liu, is a more romantic soprano voice and Puccini lavishes his attention on this suffering heroine. In fact, the Russian soprano, Hibla Gerzmava, gives us the voice of the night with her rendition of Liu and the hardships she faces. She has a warmly expressive sound, clear and focused with great passionate singing, particularly in her wonderful Act 3 aria ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’.
Her secret love of course is the Prince Calaf, who is sung by the 42 year old Latvian tenor, Aleksandrs Antonenko. His is not the prettiest of tenor voices. He is fairly one-dimensional in the fortitude of his singing with little colour, but he has a secure ringing top to his voice – perhaps somewhat to the detriment of a secure middle voice. The presentation is somewhat reminiscent of the tenor, Franco Bonisolli, who sang this role to somewhat good effect 30 years ago.
A bit of a curate’s egg, which is similar to the performance of the American, Christine Goerke. She also has a substantial voice and ample sound, particularly at the top of her voice, although there is a strange mix of squall and lack of sound on certain occasions in the middle to upper register with slight vibrato. She is now singing large Wagner roles throughout the world and it is certainly hoped that this will not take any toll on the voice of this wonderful 47 year old soprano.
The ROH Orchestra produced wonderful sound for the caring Israeli Conductor, Dan Ettinger, who’s interpretation of the music and its pace was very much his own – not necessarily mine – but his playing never overawed the singers at any stage and the chorus responded beautifully accordingly.
Overall a rather mixed night for one of operas great favourites.
With kind regards,