on 9 June 2014
I sadly missed out on seeing this production at the cinema, and I daresay that, for those who managed to see it on the big screen, the small screen experience will be a bit disappointing. However, after saying that, for me this production was a wonderful experience, the finest performance that I have ever seen on DVD or live! The sumptuous sets and costumes transport you to a different world, and the excellent acting and singing only serves to further the enjoyment.
I really enjoyed Lise Lindstrom’s performance as Turandot, she is able to bring out, through her singing and acting, every nuance of the character of the princess, steely yet at times vulnerable. This is backed up by the perfect foil of Marco Berti’s Calaf, and the rest of the cast, in which there isn’t a single weak link. The Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House are also on fine form, and the wonderful direction of Andrei Serban makes this a production to savour.
The extras on this disc include the usual cast gallery as well as an informative introduction to the opera by Antonio Pappano, and a short piece entitled ‘Behind the Masks’, which again is an introduction to the opera only this time from the perspective of Ping, Pang and Pong, both of which, especially when combined with the fine booklet notes, give some insight into the opera as well as this production.
This production is a feast for both eyes and the ears, I have been told that the original 1984 ROH production is preferable, but in my opinion this present version would be hard to beat! Highly recommended!
on 26 July 2014
Turandot was a visual marvel, both in terms of the set and the costumes. As someone who is a very inexperienced opera goer, I found that Turandot had everything I could possibly want from an opera, love, loss, lust and death.
For me, the subtitles were a saviour and really helped me to follow the story and become so wrapped up In the opera. However Turandot- an introduction was equally as useful and a very thoughtful extra feature that included interviews with both the cast and the production team.
It was an extremely powerful performance from all of the cast, I particularly enjoyed Eri Nakamuras portrayal of Lui, who had the most fantastic vocals. However the Lise Lindstrom made for a perfect princess, she was both beautiful and her vocals were outstanding.I thought that Lindstroms portrayal of Turandot was very believable, and she portrayed the fragile yet icy nature of the princess effortlessly.
The orchestra were superb, even from my living room sofa the sound was beautifully clear and incredibly dramatic. The set and costumes were very grand and impressive and really gave a continuous, authentic oriental feel to the whole production. My only critique being that on the DVD the dark background doesn’t quite do the set justice.
I would love to see a production of this at the Opera House, I thoroughly enjoyed the DVD but I now want the live experience!
on 17 September 2014
The Royal Opera’s production of Turandot is a visual wonder! Puccini’s famous opera Turandot where “Nessun Dorma’, one of Opera’s most famous arias comes from is set in Ancient China. Everything about this revival is grand from the sets, giant mask props and a throne lowering from the sky to the orchestra and dramatic costumes that really give a true oriental finish to the production.
The entire cast gave a great performance. Lise Lindstrom making her Royal Opera debut had a commanding stage presence as the Cruel, Icy Princess Turandot, who makes potential suitors answer a series of riddles, with the punishment for failure being execution. Marco Berti expertly plays Calaf, who against all warnings becomes smitten with Turandot. A special mention goes to Eri Nakamura for her fantastic depiction of Liú with terrific acting, vocals and a gentle yet commanding voice.
Viewers who have never seen this production in-house will still be very impressed with the quality in the DVD, there is the option of a selection of subtitles to display including English, French, Italian and Korean.
The filming was very good, with the camera alternating between the entire stage or zooming in on characters at appropriate times of the scene, allowing the viewer to choose where to keep their focus.
Behind the scene extras such as a cast gallery, an introduction by Antonio Pappano to the Opera as well as a short fittingly named ‘Behind the Masks video, giving an insight into the humorous characters of Ping, Pong and Pang as well as the small included booklet outlining the opera are really useful for any newcomers to this opera and viewers wanting more information.
For fans of operas filled with themes of love, honour, loss, death and some wry humour then Turandot is a must see, not only for regular Opera lovers but also for newcomers to Opera.
on 22 February 2016
Absolutely brilliant! By far the best Turandot I have ever seen.
The story is completely insane - let's face it, which man without a death wish would ever want to woo the ice cold Turandot who appears far more interested in killing off her suitors than anything remotely connected to loving them? - and this production, instead of trying to pretend that the story is not totally mad, does the opposite and embraces its madness and presents the story as some horrendous blood soaked nightmare - there is even a nice nod to Conrad's Heart of Darkness with giant heads on stakes!
Lisa Lindstrom is in fine voice and plays an insane ice cold Turandot magnificently. Marco Berti as Calaf is also in fine voice, but for my taste is a little wooden in his acting. Eri Nakamura as the faithful Liu is superb, with outstanding singing and great acting. The chracters of Pin, Pang and Pong are presented almost as devils alternately humouring and taunting Calif. Messrs Sourbis, Butt-Philips and Jones made a wonderful job of this, adding to the insanity of the piece. Indeed, after such a wonderful nightmare ride it is difficult to visualise how it might be brought to a close as Calif defrosting the frozen Turandot doesn't seem a likely ending - even an alegory of a frigid woman eventually succumbing to a man's ardent advances is pushing things a bit! - and to complicate matters further Puccini died before the piece was completed and so the ending we see and hear is that put together by another (Franco Alfano). But that is all a problem with the opera and not with this performance which is glorious, magnificently mad escapism at its best!
on 24 July 2014
This version, beautifully staged by Romanian-born director Andrei Serban, is really stunning! Lise Lindstrom's a bit icy voice Is a perfectly choice for the role of Turandot. Italian tenor Marco Berti has all the characteristics that you expect to hear as Prince Calaf. And the Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura as Liú, what a beautiful voice! Let's hope to hear more of her in the future.
The scenery, masks and dresses give a consistent oriental flavour to this production.
Get this one!
While masterpieces like La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly need no special pleading, Puccini's contribution to the opera as pure entertainment is one that is often undervalued, and his compositional gifts consequently are often underestimated. Turandot, for example, with its fairytale plot, has all the elements for a grand entertainment but doesn't seem to offer much of human interest. If it's not dealt with effectively, it can be just a mess of Orientalist clichés, with situations calculated specifically to run through the numbers, all built around the showcase aria of 'Nessun dorma'. A cold and cruel Princess, with a series of riddles for suitors who will be executed should they fail, whose heart is melted by a valiant Prince, this is Life, Death and Love writ large with very little in the way of genuine human sentiments. Or so it seems. Liù is of course the saving grace on that front, her sense of honour, duty and love igniting feelings of compassion in the Princess Turandot, and it similarly opens a way to the heart of the audience.
And this, while it seems sentimental and calculated to put it in those terms, is primarily the strength of Puccini. He always finds a way to touch the heart of the listener, and more than just being entertainment, that's the critical element that needs to be in place. If it doesn't obviously provide the necessary heart, Andrei Serban's production for the Royal Opera house (dating back to 1984) at least exploits the entertainment value of Turandot, with all its Oriental exoticism and regal glamour. The set is grand but unfussy, requiring no major set changes just the addition of props - pagodas, masks and banners - between scenes. The background is however surprisingly dark, and doesn't show off the full impact of the set. The costumes are typically bold Serban primary colours, and full use is made of the stage with good blocking of the characters with masked dancers to add life and movement.
There's nothing here in this production or in the performances however to make you sit up and be willing to explore the qualities that are there in the work and find the warm heart behind it. It all feels a little perfunctory, and it's not just the fairy tale element or the use of masks that make it somewhat inscrutable. Henrik Nánási's musical direction doesn't really manage to bring the score to life either, but it and the staging mainly provide the context for this production and they do that fairly well in the necessary places. 'Nessun dorma', for example, isn't overplayed as a showpiece but kept in its dramatic context. Liù's death is most affecting here, as it must be, and Turdanot's discovery of the name that that has eluded her - not Calaf as much as Love - brings the work to an unquestionably powerful conclusion. The lack of imagination elsewhere however means that it's the singers who have to make up for the dramatic failings.
The singing performances themselves are good, but a little more dramatic direction however might have made a real difference. Marco Berti has all the right Italian tenor characteristics that you expect to hear in this role, even if it is clearly a stretch for him in places. More of a failing is his acting ability, and you don't really get a sense of the importance of his task of Calaf being emotionally engaged with the enormity of the riddle challenge and potentially facing death the next morning - it all seems more like an act of bravado than true love. Lise Lindstrom is very capable in an unquestionably tough role, but is a little on the strident side. There's plenty of ice but no fire of passion. A little more vulnerability would bring a little humanity to her Princess Turandot. Eri Nakamura is a fine Liù, apparently light of voice but there's a robustness here and her top notes ring out beautifully. Raymond Aceto's Timur is solid, with clear enunciation in his deep bass.
The quality of the Blu-ray is, as expected from Opus Arte, of a typically high standard with a clear image and strong audio tracks go. The release also includes a 8-minute introduction and a 4-minute Behind the Masks feature on Ping, Pong and Pang. The performance can be played with these features included, or as separate Acts. There's a synopsis in the booklet, which also has a good essay by Linda Fairtile on the creation of Puccini's final opera which remained unfinished at his death. Like most, this version uses the final scene completed by Franco Alfano. The BD is Region-free, with subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Korean.
on 10 April 2014
Why, because I have always wanted a Turandot who has been portayed without shout singing by the artiste. I have five versions in my library and 2 Martons, guleghina, Casolla and Susan Foster are all guilty of this very forceful approach, pushing their voices very hard. Lise Lindstrom sings the part beautifully and even manages to look the part of the beautiful and icy princess.
What of other cast members, well their are better Califs than Bertoli, but he is pretty good. There are better interpretations of Liu than Nakamura, but she is still pretty good too.Ping, Pang and Pong have excellent contrasting voices which come together most pleasingly, and give energetic and entertaining portrayals.
The minor support roles are all up to the mark, as are the well balanced orchestra and chorus.
The costumes may not be authentic, but they are exotic and make the production even more watchable. The masks worn by dancers and chorus are also very effective.
Sets are very good without going over the top and symbolism abounds. The final set with a dark background with just a hint of Peking lights is quite eyecatching.
Just for the record I have not bought this yet, watched it on sky arts two and added it to my wish list. It will join my library shortly.
on 24 July 2014
Top rate sound and picture quality. Modern but not quirky staging, which enhances rather than distracts from the story and the performances. I was brought up with the Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli recording, I was pleased not to hear the slightly annoying vibrato in Turandot's great intro, "In questa reggia". Lise Lindstrom sounds and looks imperious, but melts just as Turandot's heart does at the end, Marco Berti as Calaf seems to reach the highest notes in the duets with deceptive ease. And Eri Nakamura singing Liu had me in tears! I loved it!
The guessing of riddles is part of folk/fairy tale tradition in a variety of cultures throughout the world. Sometimes it takes the form of guessing a name as in Tom Tit Tot (Suffolk) and Rumpelstiltskin (German). Failing to provide the correct answers usually carries with it the death penalty, as we have here in Turandot. Cold hearted Princess Turandot of China, who has no wish ever to wed due to the horror instilled in her by the rape of her ancestress Princess Lo-u-Ling some centuries ago, concocts impossible riddles for her suitors to answer with failure to do so carrying with it the death penalty. The role of Turandot is one of the most difficult operatic roles to portray. Overplay the hard, cold cruelty of the role and the actor is accused of lack of musical expression; underplay it and she is accused of portraying Turandot as too affable. My assessment is that, in this production, Lise Lindstrom gets the balance just about right and is a convincing Turandot.
This tale is also about a man who turns his back on a devoted woman in shape of Liu, who would have made him an ideal wife, for his on the spot infatuation for the cold beauty of Turandot. For me, Eri Nakamura in the role of Liu is the highlight of the whole performance. Not only is she excellent, the outfit she is wearing is an equally superb, attractively designed 'trouser suit' in the traditional style worn by Chinese women since between two and three thousand years ago. Her interpretation of the role through her singing and acting could hardly be bettered. For me, this character is the heroine of the whole piece. Hers is the true love that sacrifices itself that the one she loves might survive and enjoy life with the one he loves. But of course, the opera leaves us all with the big question: will Turandot and Calaf really be happy togther?
Marco Berti performs well in the role of the love smitten Calaf and he gets the aria 'Nessun Dorma' just about right. Owing to its popularity it's very easy to overdo this and, of course, one cannot help wondering if this work would have become so popular without it. Raymond Aceto, Dionysios Sourbis and David Butt Philip make a good job of acting the three ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, who can be rather annoying at times. I always think they are too silly for words, but that's just me. As the old saying has it: 'Silliness is the enemy of humour.'
I thought the orchestration was good and the staging spot on: neither too elaborate nor too sparse. I think it helps that this is another Opus Arte recording because my experience is that their recordings are among the very best, devoid of the annoyances we sometimes find with some recordings that are supposed to be top notch blu-ray. Although I wouldn't say this is an absolute best recording of this work, it is worth five stars just for Eri Nakamura's portrayal of Liu alone and Raymond Aceto is an excellent Timur. On balance, I would say that, if you are a Puccini fan and like Turandot you can't go far wrong by buying and watching this production, and I hope you like Eri Nakamura's performance as much as I do.
Turandot is, of course, famous for not having been completed by Puccini before he died. The ending we have in this production seems to fit in well with what Puccini had composed before he died, which was most of the work Like everything else, opera styles change and evolve and it couldn't last. Turandot was 'the end of an era' with opera composing becoming different after that as, indeed, it had already been becoming before that with the advent of the works of such composers as Richard Strauss and Janacek.
on 22 June 2014
Turandot is a spectacle, and this DVD certainly does it justice. As somebody relatively new to opera, I came to the DVD knowing relatively little about the production, but found it clear, engaging, and highly entertaining.
Fortunately for me, the DVD comes with optional subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Korean and Italian. Coupled with a printed synopsis inside the DVD packaging and an optional filmed introduction to Acts I and III, the plot was made easy to follow for opera newbies such as myself, without getting in the way of those familiar to it. I particularly enjoyed the filmed introductions, which featured interesting backstage and rehearsal footage, as well as interviews with the cast and production team. Whilst this was at times a little patronising, the enthusiasm of those involved and the exclusive behind the scenes glimpse made it a must see. This could be watched either at the start of the each act or as an extra, and was accompanied by a brief film of the cast members playing Ping, Pong and Pang in rehearsal (aptly named “Behind the Mask”).
Whilst reproducing operatic music artificially may seem to reduce some of the magic of the production, the sound was of a high quality and available both in digital or surround sound. The filming was also highly effective. Due to the detail of the production, the camera primarily focused on covering the entire stage, allowing the viewer to decide what to focus on. Nevertheless, it frequently zoomed in and out or switched angles, offering an added layer of movement to the production and revealing perspectives I never would have seen from my usual amphitheatre seat. This really added to the pantomime feel, proving the characters to be larger than life and engaging – Eri Nakamura’s pained Liù was particularly harrowing.
The production itself is real spectacle, complete with streamers, a gigantic gong and an enormous throne that lowers from the sky. I particularly enjoyed the tai chi inspired dancing, which constantly made the stage appear bustling yet controlled. Saying this, the production is at times a little too much, and is really showing its age in relation to its perception of the Orient. I also found the lighting frustratingly dark. Whilst the lighting designer, F. Mitchell Dana, explained in the Act I introduction it was created to resemble the night, I felt more variation was needed. Nevertheless, it was a powerful production, and it goes without saying that the singing was impeccable; surely a must see for any music/theatre lover, as well as a great way for those new to opera to start.