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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Turandot, Opera in three acts (1925-26). Act 3 by Alfano with finale composed by Hao Weiya.
Princess Turandot, Sun Xiuwei (sop); Prince Calaf, Dai Yuqiang (ten); Liu, Yao Hong (sop); Timur, Tian Haojiang (bass); Emperor Altoum, Liu Naiqi (ten); Ping, Liu Songhu (bar); Pong, Chen Yong (ten); Pang, Li Xiang (ten)
China National Centre for the Performing Arts Chorus and Orchestra/Daniel Oren
rec. live, China National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, October 2013
Director: Chen Xinyi. Set Designer: Gao Guangjian. Costumes: Mo Xiaomin. Lighting: Vladimir Lukasevich
Directed for TV and Video by Tiziano Mancini
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 Colour. Sound formats, PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Subtitles, English, German, Italian, Simplified Chinese (opera + bonus), Korean (opera only)
ACCENTUS MUSIC DVD ACC20338 [140 mins]

It seems to be raining recordings of Turandot at the moment; this is the second of three issued this year. The first, already reviewed and in process of publication on this site, is the performance from La Scala in 2015, its selling point being that it includes the act three completion by Luciano Berio rather than the standard one by Alfano. In that performance the modernistic production, by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, is second hand, having been first seen at the Dutch National Opera in 2002. A further recording has also emerged from Dynamic with Daniella Dessi in the eponymous role and Mario Malagnini as her suitor, again with the usual Alfano completion. It was recorded at Italy’s delightful Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa in December 2012 (DVD33764). There may yet be another recording to come in the not too distant future, derived from the January 30th 2016 transmission, in HD, from the Metropolitan Opera, New York, of Franco Zeffirelli’s famed opulent staging. This staging has previously been recorded on film with an all-star cast of Éva Marton and Placido Domingo in the leading roles in a 1988 4:3 format (DG. DVD 073-058-9).

In Britain, live performances of Turandot are relatively uncommon, if my long opera going experience is anything to go by; perhaps the challenge to producers of limited budgets for any worthwhile staging is too much, along with the requirement of big-voiced singers in the two main roles. In China itself, what was described as a Gold Medal Turandot staging and performance was given in Beijing’s so called Forbidden City by a celebrated Italian cast in 1998 (see description). Meanwhile the presence of soloists from China in the cast lists in opera houses worldwide indicate increasing interest in European Opera, as distinct from the native genre, in the country itself. In this 2013 performance, staged in the then recently built spectacular China National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, the powers that be have gone the whole way to seemingly outdo that 1998 staging in a no cost limitation, multi-tiered spectacular, with colourful costumes and performed by an all indigenous cast.

On the musical side none of the principals lets the side down. Dai Yuqiang as Calaf could bring a little more animation to his upright acted interpretation, whilst his lyric toned tenor rises to every vocal challenge, including the concluding high note in Nessun Dorma, without transposition down by a semi tone or more, as was not uncommon among certain Italianate tenors in some concert performances. (CH. 24). In the title role Sun Xiuwei is vocally stretched once or twice and could be a little warmer of tone, although she acts her part well. The Liu of Yao Hong is rather too warm and womanly in vocal tone, compared with what is usual for the role. She is certainly not helped in her acted portrayal by her hairstyle. Tian Haojiang is sonorous as Emperor Altoum and acts well whilst Ping, Pong and Pang, in their opulent costumes, are excellent in their acted and sung assumptions.

On the rostrum Daniel Oren, who had earlier taken the Musical Directorship at Guangzhou, brought dynamic climaxes and drama where appropriate, whilst doing justice to Puccini and Alfano. As to the contribution to the finale of Hao Weiya, it is hardly noticeable. The sound is warm and a little reverberant with the video director not overdoing the close-ups. The bonus, titled The making of Turandot, is brief but informative. The booklet has Chapter listings, timings and total time as well as all participant soloists and staging biographies, the latter in English and Chinese. Regrettably Chapters and timings are not available as the DVD plays, as is usual.

Robert J Farr



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