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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Turandot – opera in three acts (1926) [118:41]
Princess Turandot, his daughter (soprano) - Birgit Nilsson
Calaf, the Unknown Prince (tenor) - Franco Corelli
Liù, a young slave girl (soprano) - Anna Moffo
Timur, his aged father, exiled king of Tartary (bass) - Bonaldo Giaiotti
Emperor Altoum of China (tenor) - Alessio de Paolis
Ping, the Grand Chancellor (baritone) - Frank Guarrera
Pang, the General Purveyor (tenor) - Robert Nagy
Pong, the Chief Cook (tenor) - Charles Anthony
Prince of Persia (non-singing role) - Edilio Ferraro
A Mandarin (baritone) - Calvin Marsh
Choir and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York/Leopold Stokowski
rec. live, broadcast, Metropolitan Opera, 4 March 1961. ADD PRISTINE PACO 071 [79:09 + 39:31]
Pristine makes an atmospheric 1960s radio broadcast seductively available. The opening scene-setting by Milton Cross welcomes listeners in America and Canada and describes the 78-year old Stokowski slowly making this way into the pit on crutches. The presence of the audience is signalled through applause, some of it amid the music – though the latter only rarely. Met ticket-holders bring the progress of the music to a total halt after the eruptive climax of Corelli’s towering Nessun Dorma. Stokowski simply puts down his baton, lets the barbarian tumult subside and then picks up where he left off. The sound is clean mono – a good representation of radio era vintage here splendidly processed through Andrew Rose’s XR re-mastering.
Moffo is a cerise rich and steady-toned Liu. Corelli is in exceedingly good voice – lustily Italianate whether intimate or at full belt against the orchestra. His Non piangere Liu sends shivers coursing down the spine. I must not forget the choir who are much in play in Puccini’s lushly appointed score. They are ecstatically impressionistic in Perche tarda la lune (tr. 5 CD1) but are aptly engaged throughout, including in hummingly honeyed and deliciously recessed form in Popolo di Pekino.
This recording was previously on HRE in LP days and then on CD on Opera Live so old-timers may well know this performance already though I doubt the sound would have been as good as this. Three years later Corelli and Nilsson recorded the piece commercially in Rome for HMV. Practised hand Molinari-Pradelli was in charge for that stereo recording. I have not heard it but it is rumoured to be an intense affair.
The two discs - in a single width case with minimal documentation and no libretto - are laid out with Acts I and II on CD 1 and Act III on CD 2. Tracking is as it should be: fulsome: 23 on CD1 and 12 on CD 2.
There were a few minor defects in my review version. It is Guarrera not Guarrara. Two track 11s are listed on the rear insert for CD 2 and there’s a minor tape-stuttered repeat at about 15 seconds into In questa Reggia. Pristine assure us that the stutter has now been fixed. It’s addressed with customary transparency and integrity on the Pristine site.
It is interesting to compare this successful account with Sony’s only intermittently successful Met operatic series reviewed on this site.
If you want a resonant theatre-real Turandot to put alongside the Mehta/Decca then this will do very well indeed.