Originally issued on
CBS Masterworks, this live Turandot
has, perhaps surprisingly, much to recommend
it. Surprisingly because Maazel is not
always known for variety and depth in
interpretation – yet here he achieves
more than a measure of profundity at
A pity the presentation
is so lacking. With only the sketchiest
of plot synopses, one is forced onto
the internet for the libretto ()http://www.karadar.com/Librettos/puccini_TURANDOT.html).
Furthermore, Acts 1 and 3 are single
tracks, Act 2 only being two because
it is split across the two discs!. Surely
this is unacceptable in this day and
age. It makes locating arias for comparison
purposes a positive chore.
Being a live performance,
there are inevitable pluses and minuses.
The plus comes from the frisson live
performance brings with it; the minuses
from some strange balances that periodically
detract. Also the applause can be wearing
after a while, spontaneous though it
was at the time.
Carreras is the strength
at the heart of this reading. His ‘Nessun
dorma’ is impassioned, perhaps because
the speed is not too funereal - I have
heard him sing so slowly I thought it
would stop. There is a lyrical flow
here, although there is a caveat that
the second statement of the words ‘Nessun
dorma’ seems to lie too low for his
Eva Marton’s assumption
of Turandot is not quite the match for
Carreras’s Calaf, although when they
duet later in Act 2 they come across
as a formidable couple. She is most
successful throughout the final act.
As Liù, Katia
Ricciarelli provides a more than acceptable
reading. Her ‘Signore, ascolta’ (as
Liù begs Calaf not to risk his
life for the Princess) emerges as a
very tender plea. The strength of the
casting of Ricciarelli and Marton shows
through in Act 3. Marton is tellingly
emotive at the line, ‘Sei pallido, straniero!’
– Ricciarelli matches her in terms of
dramatic power in the ensuing exchanges.
Ricciarelli is similarly impressive
in her ‘Tanto amore segreto’.
Kurt Rydl is the Mandarin
– he kicks the opera off with a large,
imposing reading appropriate for an
edict. The trio of Ping, Pang and Pong
(here Robert Kerns, Helmut Wildhaber
and Heinz Zednik) are great fun. Vocally,
Kerns is just about acceptable, though
seeming to struggle somewhat at times.
John-Paul Bogart’s Timur (the King of
the Tartars in exile) suffers from massive
over-vibrato at times and can also sound
weak in the earlier stages of the opera.
He can also sound far too over-literal
(as in Act 3, ‘Ah, camminiamo insieme
un’ altra volta così’).
As for Maazel, his
marshalling of forces is generally excellent.
The fairy-tale evocation at the start
of Act 3 worked particularly well and
his shadowing of his singers is all
that one would expect from this conductor.
More, his pacing in the final analysis
triumphs over problems of casting, balance
and sometimes intrusive applause to
leave one with a fulfilled impression
at the close of the work. His handling
of Act 2 in particular conveys the requisite
Certainly this recording
does not upstage either Mehta’s 1972
recording or Serafin’s 1957 one, but
at the price it is certainly worth hearing.