Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Turandot [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera]
07 Feb 2011

Turandot, San Diego

The original story that formed the basis for the libretto of Puccini’s opera Turandot told of a Mongolian princess who insisted that any prospective husband endeavor to win a wrestling match with her.

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot

Turandot: Lise Lindstrom; Calaf: Carlo Ventre; Liu: Ermonela Jaho; Timur: Reinhard Hagen; Ping: Jeff Matsey; Pang: Joel Sorensen; Pong: Joseph Hu; Mandarin: Scott Sikon. Conductor: Edoardo Müller. Director: Lotfi Mansouri. Scenery: David Hockney. Costumes: Ian Falconer.

Above: Turandot [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera]

 

In 1710, French author François Pétis de la Croix made her into Turandot, the so-called ice princess, who ordered the beheading of prospective consorts who could not solve riddles she posed. Half a century later, Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi transformed the Pétis story into a work for the theater.*

Turandot was Giacomo Puccini’s last opera. He first looked at it in March 1920 when he met with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni to choose a subject for his next work. Having selected Turandot, he composed most of it between 1921 and 1924, a time when impressionism along with the sounds of Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss were most influential.** When he had completed all but the last few minutes of the score, he went abroad for cancer treatment and, unfortunately, died of a heart attack there. The finale was completed by Franco Alfano and the new opera was premiered at La Scala in Milan on Sunday 25 April 1926, seventeen months after Puccini’s death. It was very quickly accepted by European and American theaters and was performed in New York, Vienna, Dresden and Buenos Aires during the same year as its world premiere.*** It was seen in London the following year. China, however, has taken many decades to accept this work because it once thought the libretto painted its people in a poor light. Performances there did not take place until the 1990s.

On 29 January, San Diego Opera opened its 2011 season with a gala performance of Turandot featuring brightly colored sets by the well-known artist David Hockney. Similarly colored costumes were designed by Ian Falconer. Although the scenery is stylized in a simplified Chinesemanner, for the San Diego Opera performances, inventive, Iranian-born stage director Lotfi Mansouri had his principals move with realistic reactions to the story’s situations.

For Lise Lindstrom, Turandot has become a signature role ever since her Met debut last season. After San Diego, she will sing it at La Scala and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin before returning to the United States and yet another rendition of the role at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She sings it with a smooth delivery that belies the difficulty of the part. Her radiant technique is reminiscent of Birgit Nilsson, but although her voice had a great deal of gleaming steel that could cut through the orchestral tapestry like a laser, this ice princess melted into a passionate lover in Act III. She was not the only soprano star on that stage, however.

Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho, who has been heard in San Diego as Maria Stuarda, was a magnificently poignant Liù. She really brought tears to everyone’s eyes when she sang her aria, ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’. She is a lyric soprano with a rainbow of warm, glowing colors in her voice and the ability to involve the emotions of the audience with her stagecraft.

Turandot_SD_2011_02.gifA scene from Turandot [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera]

As Calàf, Uruguayan tenor Carlo Ventre was a patient suitor who sang all the notes in the right places with a warm, well-bronzed sound. His interpretation could have been a little bit more energetic and passionate, but his rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ brought down the house. Having Reinhold Hagen sing Timur was definitely luxury casting. His smoky-toned mellifluous voice and accomplished interpretation made his character a major player in this drama.

The trio of Ping, Pang and Pong add a bit of comic relief in Act I and a pastoral note to the second act. Baritone Jeff Mattsey as Ping, with tenors Joel Sorensen and Joseph Hu as Pang and Pong, sang with distinctive colors as they combined dramatic coherence with visual piquancy. As the Mandarin, veteran comprimario Scott Sikon commanded the stage with his proclamations. Seated at the top rear of the set, Joseph Frank as Emperor Altoum sang with a quivering reedy tone that denoted his great age.

Acting chorus master Charles Prestinari drew skillfully blended harmonies from San Diego Opera’s excellent group of choristers while they played their parts as the People of Peking. Ebullient and energetic Italian conductor Edoardo Müller led the excellent orchestra in Puccini’s somewhat impressionistic and thoroughly complex score. When the performance ended the applause was thunderous as once again the San Diego audience welcomed the opening of its opera season.

Maria Nockin
(This review also appears at Music & Vision)


* Puccini based his libretto upon Turandot, Prinzessin von China, an adaptation of Gozzi by Schiller.

** Julian Budden wrote:

Despite its unfinished state Turandot is rightly regarded as the summit of Puccini’s achievement, bearing witness to a capacity for self-renewal unsurpassed by that of still greater composers. The style remains true to the composer’s 19th-century roots, but it is toughened and amplified by the assimilation of uncompromisingly modern elements, including bitonality and an adventurous use of whole-tone, pentatonic and modal harmony. The resulting synthesis commands a new range of expression (the pentatonic scale, no longer a mere orientalism as in Madama Butterfly, conveys the full depth of Liù’s pathos in ‘Signore, ascolta’). The music is organized in massive blocks, each motivically based – a system which shows to particular advantage in Act 1, arguably the most perfectly constructed act in Puccini’s output; while the scoring shows a rare imagination in the handling of large forces (the writing for xylophone alone immediately attracts the attention). These attributes, combined with Puccini’s unfailing ability to communicate directly with an audience, have established Turandot as a classic of 20th-century opera.
Julian Budden. “Turandot (ii).” In The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O905166 (accessed February 7, 2011).

*** Yet, as late as 1959, one critic observed that Turandot was rarely performed because of “a certain harshness that sets it apart from the big Puccini favorites (Tosca, Bohème, Butterfly), some devilishly difficult vocal parts, and a need for sumptuous staging.”

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):