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superb BD-A sound

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music that will be new to most people

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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Turandot, completed by Franco Alfano (1921/24) [112:16]
Princess Turandot - Daniela Dessė
Emperor Altoum - Massimo La Guardia
Timur - Ramaz Chikviladze
Calaf - Mario Malagnini
Lių - Roberta Canzian
Ping - Francesco Verna
Pang - Enrico Salsi
Pong - Manuel Pierattelli
A Mandarin - Fabrizio Beggi
The Prince of Persia - Pasquale Graziano
First Handmaid - Annarita Cecchini
Second Handmaid - Simona Pasino
Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Choir of the Teatro Carlo Felice/Donato Renzetti
rec. live, 27/30 December 2012, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, Italy
Picture: 1080i, 16:9
Sound: LPCM Stereo, dts-HD Master Audio 5.1
Booklet notes, synopsis: Italian & English
Subtitles: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean
Regions: All
DYNAMIC 55764 Blu-ray [119:00]

In 2015 I experienced the vagaries of Regietheater whilst reporting on a Turandot directed by Lorenzo Fioroni at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. As soon as the curtain opened my heart dropped at what my eyes were seeing. I can’t remember a stage design looking as tired and slipshod. Talk about a ‘budget’ production, it had all the class of an end-of-season-sale! Director Fioroni and stage designer Paul Zoller had collaborated on what seems to be a vision of an undefined communist state – maybe East Germany under Soviet control. Basically as plain as possible the set was constructed of large, light brown plywood-panelled walls from top to bottom, with a rectangular aperture cut out about two-thirds of the way up. The costumes were a hotchpotch of everyday clothes from around the 1950/60s.

Puccini had laboured almost four years on Turandot, his tenth opera, but died before he could complete the work. At Arturo Toscanini’s suggestion music for the final section was written by the composer Franco Alfano, a pupil of Puccini, in a version which is used here.

Released on the Dynamic label this lavish production from Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa - with its mainly Italian cast directed by Giuliano Montaldo reviving Fausto Cosentino’s original production - could be described as a traditional period staging. The sumptuous set design by Luciano Ricceri and costumes by designer Elisabetta Montaldo Bocciardo principally using a range of traditional Chinese clothing takes the audience back to ancient Peking as Puccini intended. Only Emperor Altoum’s ridiculously large headwear seems out of place.

With convincing acting soprano Daniela Dessė makes an unpleasant and icily unfeeling Princess Turandot. On the other hand her undoubted vocal power is rather spoilt by a harsh, unpleasant tone that comes perilously close to screaming.

In the role of Calaf tenor Mario Malagnini gives a creditable performance, projecting his voice steadily; he gives a fine account of Nessun dorma that draws cheers from the audience. Relying principally on the intensity of his voice he offers little by way of stage presence.

Poor slave girl Lių, secretly smitten by Calaf, often steals the show with her two glorious arias. It is no different here, with Roberta Canzian receiving the loudest ovation. In splendid voice Canzian displays her clear and firm tone with affecting expression, creating a compelling pathos in her dramatic suicide scene.

Ramaz Chikviladze as the blind king Timur, the former king of Tartary, impresses with his clear, resonant bass. In the roles of Ping, Pang and Pong Francesco Verna, Enrico Salsi and Manuel Pierattelli sing capably and are reasonably amusing, leaving me wondering if more could have been made of the comedy element.

Conductor Donato Renzetti obtains a fine response from his Genoa players, and under Marco Berrini’s coaching the chorus sound impressive, well unified and suitably dramatic.

Matteo Richetti’s video direction is satisfying, pulling the stage action together tightly. His reasonably active cameras avoid viewer fatigue and tedium. To provide some atmosphere there is footage of the audience taking their seats for the production and the conductor and orchestra are seen in the pit at the start of each act. Otherwise the action concentrates exclusively on the stage.

with such wide dynamics Turandot is technically challenging to record, and the engineers have done a marvellous job with this live production. The sound, in stereo and surround, is clear and provides an agreeable balance between singers and orchestra. The high-definition picture is sharp and colours are true. The accompanying booklet is well annotated; it has an informative essay by Danilo Prefumo, ‘Turandot - Unbeaten paths’, a helpful track listing and a good synopsis.

If I had to recommend a single Blu-ray of Turandot it would be Marco Arturo Marelli’s captivating staging on the magnificent floating stage at the 2015 Bregenz Festival, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paolo Carignani (review). Nevertheless, Giuliano Montaldo’s staging provides satisfaction and succeeds in bringing the characters convincingly to life.

Michael Cookson



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