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3.6 out of 5 stars24
3.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 August 2011
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that Turandot is an underrated opera, but its most famous aria, Nessun Dorma, has tended to overshadow the other qualities that the work has to offer. Puccini's final opera (the last scene completed after his death by Franco Alfano) also has more to it than a superficial look at the fairy-tale nature of the story - based on a work by the 18th century Venetian dramatist Carlo Gozzi - might suggest, or indeed the exotic Oriental inflections of the opera's music score. Turandot actually contains some of Puccini's finest musical compositions, the composer bringing his considerable talent to bear on the overall structure and arrangement, while also finding - as he always does - beautiful melodies that express a depth of emotion and character that one might not expect to find in the piece.

There's a human heart in the story of a cruel princess, Turandot, who demands that anyone seeking her hand in marriage must first give the answer to three riddles that she sets - and where there's a human heart, few are as expressive as Giacomo Puccini. It's within the answers to these riddles moreover that those qualities in the music and in the story can be found. It's hope that lies within Calef, but it is due to die at dawn, his answers to the riddles having failed to melt the burning ice of Turandot, and it's only through the blood of Liu that the situation is resolved and the true nature of love is revealed. If this doesn't quite add up to full character development, the beauty of Puccini's musical arrangements makes up the difference. The Oriental touches are not merely pastiche either - Puccini seems to understand the nature of this foreign and discordant music and the sentiments that lie within it, and he meaningfully and skilfully weaves it into his score to great effect.

Franco Zeffirelli's lavish production for The Met could also be accused of extravagance, kitsch and overstatement, but in reality it's perfectly in keeping with the tone and the nature of Puccini's drama. Zeffirelli's huge sets capture the grandness of the occasion, the decadence of the royal court and the magical qualities of the fairy-tale nature of the subject, but it also pays attention to the details in the costume design, as well as in the position of the characters within the sets and in relation to one another. Those qualities are also borne out in the performance of the Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons, who grasp the full force and dymanic of this extraordinary opera, and in the singing performances from a fine cast. Guleghina and Giordani play well together and rise to the exceptional demands of their roles, but it's Marina Poplavskaya who positively shines as Liu. Poplavskaya can sometimes be a little inconsistent and out of her depth in certain roles, but she has a great emotional quality in her voice and it comes through here brilliantly. In every respect this production is just magnificent - there's no other word for it.

The Blu-ray release from Decca has an unfortunate fault with the English subtitles - at least on the initial batch of copies. English subtitles are a full 37 seconds out of sync with the voices, though they seem fine on the other languages (I got by on French). The subs work fine if you access Act 3 directly from the chapter menu (if you want to get to Nessun Dorma, for example), but they cannot be made to synchronise for any of the other acts through this method. It's a pity, because in all other respects, this is a superb High Definition presentation of the Met's 2009 Live in HD recording that brings out the full colourful glory of Zeffirelli's production, and packs a punch on the HD sound mixes. The recording keeps the same format as the HD Live broadcasts, introduced here by Patricia Racette, who also conducts interviews with Maria Guleghina, Marcello Giordani, and Charles Anthony during the interval between Act 2 and 3.
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on 23 July 2011
This is a wonderful production. A visual treat, with exceptionally rich sets and costumes.

Artistically, the production is moving and involving, especially from act 2 onwards, culminating in a gripping final act.

Maria Guleghina surpasses Eva Marton, whilst Marchello Giordani is a match for Domingo in the Zeffirelli production under Levine Turandot - Puccini - NTSC edition [1988] [DVD]. He justly gets an enthusiastic applause after "Nessun dorma".

Marina Poplavskaya is a moving Liu and Hopkins, Stevenson and Valdes are a wonderful trio as Ping, Pang and Pong.

The subtitles problem stressed by all other reviewers is irritating in acts 1 and 2. They improve a lot in the 3rd act, but the problem still remains. Could Amazon do something about us, who in all trust to its impeccable quality of service rushed to pre-order the BD?

Five stars for the artistic virtues, one star (thanks to act 3) for the subtitling.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 January 2012
This is a fine traditional production which has been re-issued with corrected sub-titles. The only problem is the continuing issue of inappropriate and mediocre interviews which disrupt the continuity of the opera and destroy the theatrical mystique! Why oh why why could they not be "extras" on the Blu ray?
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on 14 July 2011
This not a review, but a warning.

I received this Blu-ray today and the English and Chinese Subtitles are out of sync with the singing by 37 seconds. The 1st Note is sung at 00:03:15 the corresponding subtitle does not appear until 00:03:52.

The subtitles of the 1st 88 minutes of the opera are out completely of sync. By the time the subtitles are displayed the action has already moved on to something else (which is extremely annoying). However, from the beginning of the last Act to the end of the opera the subtitles are in sync.

I checked the French, German and Spanish Subtitles and found these to be Ok. If the English or Chinese subtitles are important to you; do not buy this Blu-ray until a replacement is available with the correct timings.

I requested a refund, as any replacement from the same batch will have the same defect. Which presents a problem; how will you know that the problem has been fixed unless you buy the disc and play it? This is very poor quality control by the manufacturer. Defects like this just should not happen.
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on 28 April 2013
I think it's worth adding the comment at a headline level that the subtitles seem now to be fixed as I would not have bought this if I'd just quickly seen the reviews about subtitles.

It is a truly gorgeous production and the music is outstanding. The "behind the scenes" introductions grate somewhat and will incline me away from future Met DVDs if there's a good alternative, but it's tolerable. Some of the voices whether in life or in the recording are just weak. Not the definitive Turandot, but with a DVD 10-20 x cheaper than a live performance it's worth it.
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on 20 July 2011
As has been mentioned, the English subtitles for acts 1&2 are delayed by about 35 seconds, rendering this disc worthless to English speakers. For what it's worth (very little) Act 3 is in synch.

Other problems include the lack of Italian subtitles and an inacuracy of the translation into English. Example, Principessa di gelo (Princess of ice) is rendered as "Princess of bloodshed". This license of translation is repeated throughout and is unacceptable. Why the translator should see fit to alter the meanings of words so drasticaly is utterly baffling.

Not all bad though! Had I seen this production live I would have been very pleased. However, recorded media inevitably will be compared to the best that is available, and here this blu-ray edition comes unstuck. The legendary Zeffirelli production is stunning but many familiar with the Levine/Marton/Domingo DVD wanting to purchase this blu-ray for the HD visuals may be disappointed by the mediocrity of the audio and performances.

The orchestra to my ear sounded muddled and this may well be due to the somewhat poor sound engineering and unbalanced acoustic. As for the singing, I was at times delighted and at others underwhelmed. Poplavskaya's Signore Ascolta was delightful but Ramey's beautiful bass has acquired a slightly distracting vibrato wobble. Guleghina has the right steely voice for the Principesa di morte but at times lacked the (Wagnerian?) clout this role demands. She sounded better in Mehta's fine (if visually silly) Valencia production. Giordani's Calaf at times threatened to become sublime genius but was mostly unconvincing. Nobody shone but nobody was bad.

I would prefer that recordings be made once the performers have settled into their roles and the particular staging rather than rushed out to disc on opening nights (Teatro alla Scala's Aida suffers similar issues.) And I would prefer that Decca take more care in their publishing.
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on 20 January 2012
This was my first experience of opera on Blue-Ray and visually it is stunning every facet of Zefferelli's glittering staging caught in pin sharp detail. The sound matches the picture with a wide dynamic range and the voices well caught. I only have a DTS equipped amp so cannot comment on the DTS HD Master Audio aspect.Unfortunately I purchased one of the earlier versions where the sub-titles were way out of sync with the music. Considering the price paid and the fact i know the work well enough I just switched them off. I understand this promlem has now been corrected but there may be older versions still out there. The singing from the principles while not matching that of some of the great exponents of the roles mostly captured on CD and LP gives little to other DVD versions. There is also little in the way of dramictic acting but then the work is rather static with the main characters spending little or no time alone on stage, the beguinning of act III with Nessun Dorma being the execption, most of the time there are large crowds on stage. The truncated Alfano completion is offered. The conducting is more than adequate with a good drive and sense of momentum if lacking the musical depth of someone like Karajan in the pit. There is only one other Blue-Ray alternative with the same singer in the title role (which I have not seen) which offers a different approach to setting. If you want a mainstream version with top notch picture and sound well sung you cannot go far wrong with this. Watch out for the early versions though if you need the subtitles.
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on 11 December 2012
I had not come across 'Amazon Warehouse Deals' before, but a price of £3.19 for a 'used' blu ray was far too tempting! The product arrived shrink wrapped and with the booklet. The quality of the DVD is everything that you would expect from a high quality blu ray from Decca. However there is a BUT!! If you read some of the reviews, there are comments about the subtitles running about 30 seconds behind and of being sparse in content. Yes my DVD has this problem but at the price I can certainly put up with it. However it would have been better if Amazon had mentioned that this was perhaps the reason for the cheap price.
Did I enjoy the DVD otherwise - yes. The staging, lighting and costumes are brilliant, the chorus is tremendous and most of the main singers are good
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on 14 July 2011
My copy has the same problem with subtitles. As well as being completely out of sync. the subtitles are few and far between. Someone has decided to show only the bare minimum required to follow the outline of the plot. There are stretches when people are singing but no subtitles are provided. On occasions a line appears which makes no sense at all because the preceding lines have not been translated.

The production however is visually stunning and the singing consistently good. The audio falls a little short of perfection, especially in loud choral passages, which can be a little congested. But, subtitles apart, highly recommended.
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on 2 November 2012
Greatest production,there can be no argument there.
Singing - also near flawless and Turadot was again the icy cold and power tower,
As she should be.
The only let down is the presence of commentary from direct telecast- hence not 5*but 4*
But you can f/f and enjoy the great opera at its very grandest.
The only recording where Turadot is this good ( or better!) is recording on DVD with Dimitrova.
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