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Recordings

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot
24 May 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

This must be the first Turandot that has in the sleeve notes three photographs of the soprano who sings Liu compared to two of the lady in the title role.

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot

Alessandra Marc (Turandot), Ignacio Encinas (Calaf), Ainho Arteta (Liu),Erwin Schrott (timur), lluis Sintes ( Ing), Eduaqrdo Santamaria (Pang), José Ruiz (Pong), Pedro Calderon (Altoum), José Manuel Diaz (Mandarin). Orquesta sinfonica de Euskadi conducted byJosé Collado.
Recorded on the 21th and 24th of September 2002 in Bilbao.

RTVE Musica 65171 [2CDs]

$33.49  Click to buy

So much for priorities though there may be a reason for it. This issue is mostly destined for the Spanish speaking countries and Arteta is quite a name there, popular too due to some zarzuela-recordings. I’m nevertheless more impressed by her Liu than by her solo-zarzuela-album. The voice on this Turandot is almost a cross between Mirella Freni and Renato Scotto; there is something of Freni’s sweetness and Scotto’s intensity. Moreover, Arteta has some magical pianissimi which she uses abundantly. Her performance nevertheless proves to be a real live one without Domingo-editings to cut away false or missed notes. She comes in too early in her ‘Signore ascolta’ and has to repeat the phrase and in my opinion, agreed not a very purist one, it makes for a charming effect. Less charming is the end of her second aria ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’ where there is once more a misunderstanding between pit and scene.

The tenor is Ignacio Encinas, not a well-known name to most readers, but alas too well known to me who has suffered him a lot at the Walloon Opera. Encinas is today’s version of Franco Bonisolli. Acting means strutting around like a peacock. Singing means clinging to high notes, lengthening or shortening note values as it becomes him. Phrasing is sometimes fine and often clumsy and he often succeeds of doing that in one breath. The same goes for the sound. In one note he can combine a nice dark sound followed by a dry patch. He has a good top, not many decibels (less in life than this recording would suggest) but projects well. He can be rather exciting in some verismo roles like Chénier but I also heard him as Manrico or Gualtiero (Pirata) where the liabilities were greater than the advantages. In the first act of this recording he is on his best behaviour, singing a good ‘Non piangere’ but by the second act the discipline is going down the drain and all his tricks and eccentricities are clearly audible. Sometimes there is singing and then there is sprechgesang and of course a big breath before taking the high C in ‘ti voglio tutto ardente’. And like Bonisolli one gets irritated with the mannerisms because one realizes there could be quite a voice hiding under it all.

But the main reason for acquiring this set as a valuable addition to the many great classical recordings is the Turandot of Alessandra Marc. I cannot think of a better Turandot on modern records, be it live or studio since Gina Cigna in 1937. (Yes, I know the Nilsson recordings and I even heard her twice in the role in her heydays). The voice is big, easily riding over the orchestra but it is feminine as well and not just a laser beam. She magnificently succeeds in bringing anguish to her role the moment Calaf has solved the third riddle. And, she really melts when singing her second aria ‘Dal primo pianto’. Agreed, on top and at full throttle she not always succeeds fully but that is minor compared to the rich overwhelming and emotionally involved sound.

The sound of this recording is a little bit constricted as if the source were a TV-broadcast and it favours the singers over the orchestra. The chorus of the Bilbao Opera is definitely underpowered so that the climax of this classical Alfano-version suffers somewhat. Therefore it is somewhat difficult to judge the merits of the conductor though his tempi are fine. There is no libretto included.

Jan Neckers

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