This production was recorded live at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia in May 2008. Zubin Mehta is the Music conductor and it was staged by Chen Kaige who is an internationnaly acclaimed Chinese film-maker.The sumptuous costumes and palace sets were designed in China.Maria Guleghina triumphs as Turandot.I encourage people to also view the bonus(36 minutes). The blu-ray version is worth buying. You can admire the costumes and the whole set and the sound is fantastic. Turandot is not my favourite opera but I have seen this production 3 times and I also love Puccini's music. You will never regret this purchase.
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The Stage setting is elaborate enough for the opera. The sound is perfect. I have to admit that I needed to use the sub-tittles as I am not that familiar with the words or story yet.
I could see where at first one may not think that Marco as a beginning presents as Calaf. However, it does not take long for him to move into the part and not ham it up.
This is Puccini's final opera and I am impressed that he never lost steam. The story seems at first a conglomeration of myths. However it is well rounded and becomes a myth if its own. A nameless prince falls for a mysterious Chinese princes, Turandot (Maria Guleghina.) she smells good but has a nasty attitude. If you are inclined to marry her, you must first answer three questions. If you get them wrong, you will be beheaded.
The prince is ignorant of the fact the he is already loved. The princes did not intend to fulfill any promise. In addition, the bulk of the opera is songs sung about intentions.
I was afraid the then highpoint of the opera would be the song Nessun dorma! and the rest would be filler. I was wrong it is captivating from the beginning to end. Someone may thing that it was quickly rapped up. However, it was actually pretty much dictated by the speech from the soon to be dispatched Liù (Alexia Voulgaridou - soprano) were she dictates the future.
I can listen to Alexia Voulgaridou signore Ascolta repeatedly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent costuming, sets, lighting and orchestral playing but .......May 15 2010
Mr. John A. Coulson
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A top notch opera production demands a lot, particularly when most of the storylines are so unbelievable. BUT if the production, acting and singing all come together then opera can be a truly sublime art form. Sadly this does not happen with the disc under review.
The orchesral playing and the recording of it is first class but I was unmoved by Maria Guleghina in the role of Turandot and found it difficult to accept that men would risk their lives for her. Her singing was certainly powerful, but that did not make it appealing to me. Marco Berti the role of Calaf seemed OK until he attempted Nessun Dorma in Act 3 and he lost me after that poor effort. The chorus was great and the minor roles came through ok but the overall effect was one of disappointment for me. This is a pity because otherwise this production has a lot going for it.
But if the main roles are unimpressively sung then nothing much can save any opera, particularly when the tale presented is as fanciful as that in Turandot.
Not recommended (although I would give it 3.5 stars rather than 3 if that was allowed here).
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Excellent JobAug. 8 2010
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I first encountered Turandot when I played Putin-Pao (the executioner) as an extra in the San Francisco Opera. I was greatly impressed by the performance of Liu, than sung by Renata Tebaldi. Since then, I have not found a recorded performance that was comparable in quality and feeling, until this one. While I am not particularly thrilled with the new interpretation of Putin-Pao, the rest of the performers and their work are unexceptional, and the staging is brilliant. Treating the Emperor as a drunkard is a nice touch. This is the first time I have seen a Turandot with whom it is remotely possible that Calaf fell in love at first sight. To me, this is a generally inspired production. One note of caution: reproducing this disc cleanly requires a high-bandwidth system. I had to connect my external 8x Blu-Ray drive to my ATA bus, rather than through the USB 2.0 link I had been using, to prevent the music skipping, and when the disk is played on my Panasonic DMP-BD605 Blu-Ray player through the TV the quality of the picture is degraded when presenting some of the more complex images (e.g., Calaf's skirt when he moves around quickly, Putin-Pao's stiletto waving).
30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Not yet there / far from it...!Dec 2 2009
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There are several markedly problems with this production, and right from the start:
Beginning with static stage movements' chorus is halved left and right with no purpose in their movements, reminiscent of a high school amateur play setting and gestures.
Right from the start it also becomes painfully obvious that Calaf (Marco Berti, Tenor), has no stage presentation and looks like a barrel walking on two legs - a walking barrel: too fat, thick, barely moves across the stage, and for no obvious reason they dressed him like a Roman soldier. OK, one would say, if only his voice would possess a golden `klang', flexibility, an elaborate expression - but no, it does not have any of those: The voice is too wobbly at times; it struggles to reach, hit, and stay with the higher notes, has no `hero' sound to it, and has no flexibility of phrase. Sorry; this is a third class tenor inserted into in a production which aspires to become a Blu-ray land mark.
The old Timur (Tsymbalyuk) is fine, although he possesses a strange vibrato tremolo not heard too often from an Italian cultivated bass voice (actually, he is Russian which might explain this enigma).
The slave girl Liu (Alexia Voulgaridou) sings fine, the voice is just a tad too old for the young slave girl roll and sounds too dramatic. No comparison with the Leona Mitchell (for the Metropolitan) in this roll, and certainly no comparison with the excellent childish-like (vocally and visually) young sparkling voice of Cecilia Gasdia for the `Arena di Verona' production.
And: Chain Kaige staging does this bizarre thing amongst other things: He strips off the mystery of Turandot's figure and reveals her too soon `in broad day light so to speak: her first entry is from amongst the stage public - carrying a man's helmet on her head like a Wagnerian Walkure figure (it's only when she removes the helmet and exposes her long hair, that one see it is the `princes Turandot'. still, at these moments she looks too much like a Wagnerian Brunhilde the walkure, and much less than Turandot the mystery figure.
Watching the emperor in Chain Kaige staging of Turandot, is like watching a drunken Bacchus: The Kaige staging portrays him as drunk Roman figure from the Nero era: simply drunk and busy drinking...The choice of an actor/singer for the emperor is sorely wrong here: The face and the voice of the actor chosen are much too young (Javier Aguillo) This `old' emperor has no gray hair, just a full dark brown crest of hair and a full dark beard (stupid approach)... The Aguillo voice (in the roll of the old emperor) is totally misplaced: The voice is fresh, it is a young tenor voice that tries to pass here as old where the roll asks for a true old frail voice coming from an older actor who would act and look old. The stage manager approach here is not trustworthy (and what is the wisdom behind this choice? Is it just for the sake of being different?) One should turn to the Metropolitan DVD with the veteran old emperor portrayal of Hugues Cuenod, to see, hear and understand how this role should be performed.
Turandot (Maria Gulenghina) is sung ALMOST to perfection but not quite; Maria Gulenghina has difficulties in approaching the trumpet-like force sound in the high notes. True, she gets those notes but does so with difficulty - and ones nailed, she gets off them in a hurry as quick as she can before something in the vocal-cords will give in or crack. Make no mistake: This is no Ghena Dimitrova (Turandot of La Scala and the Arena de Verona), and she is not close even to the superb Eva Marton - the Turandot for the James Levine and the Metropolitan opera in Franco Zeffirelli staging. True, Maria Gulenghina's voice sounds a bit like Dimitrova at the middle and lower-range, but it does not have the power reserves Dimitrova possess, nor has she the clarity-silvery trumpet-voice of Eva Marton in this roll. (Maria Gulenghina is favorably remembered here from her Metropolitan performances of Verdi's Lady Macbeth from several years ago but even then she had some difficulties with the top register!).
The conducting is classical for Zubin Mehta, though he has achieved greater heights for the Decca recording of the late Seventies with Sutherland, Pavarotti and Monserrat Caballe (would it be that he felt that this is not the case for a total commitment?).
The staging and the illumination on this Blu-ray recording is quite rich and colorful, the costumes too, but stage movements of the participants are static and at times naive and disappointing...The whole setting lacks tension, drama and purpose the way Franco Zeffirelli's mesmerizing staging for the Metropolitan has where excitement, fluidity, drama and drive are the assets.
From the vocal point of view one would do much, much better buying the Levine/Zeffirelli/Metropolitan DVD, with Eva Marton, Leona Mitchell, Flacido Dominigo, or one should get the rare and hard to come by DVD of the `Arena di Verona' Turandot with the luminous superb Ghena Dimitrova, Martinucci, Cecilia Gasdia, and Ivo vinvo.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not GreatApril 21 2011
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I am a big Puccini fan, and Turandot is an Opera that I always had a weakness for. It brings out grandeur in Puccini's music like not even Tosca much before it. It has some of the most fantastic orchestration,choruses and sheer difficulty and sensitivity as far as singing is concerned. Its exoticism in terms of creating an atmosphere of a distant land is probably the best of Puccini - even more pronounced than in Madama Butterfly.
This is a work that lends itself to interpretation from both the orchestra, soloists and the chorus in as many ways as there are productions, conductors and directors on stage and behind.
There are ever so many recordings of Turandot, both in CD and DVD. The best of the lot all shine in their own way, although nitpicking problems exist in almost all of them. Therefore, I would like to view this production from the perspective of the 3 productions of this work conducted by Mehta in 3 decades that I am familiar with.
Of the lot, the Sutherland, Pavarotti and Caballe was the first one that caught my fancy, and it has remained my favourite throughout.
The second notable production with Mehta is the one staged in Beijing (1998), which is as grand and opulent as a production can be, even if it was in the open air and miked.
This is the third one conducted by Mehta.
The one in Beijing directed by Zhang Yimou stands out as the better one filmed, with soloists who could not only sing but really act much better, although, soloist to soloist, there are far better people who have sung these roles. That one was a traditional reading, well sung with especially Barbara Frittoli being an outstanding Liu. Even Ping, Pang and Pong in that production were outstanding.
Guleghina in the current production however, is a far better Turandot. In both the Beijing as well as this one, the tenors (Larin and Berti respectively)disappoint a bit.
As far as this production goes, I wish Calaf was sung a little better. Berti just does not have it in him to play this role. Guleghina really stands out, and I do really wish comparisons are not drawn between her and the doyens of the past to the point of nitpicking. This Opera lends itself to not only singing, but acting too, where I can assure you, she scores well over Sutherland in almost all the roles they have done. Sutherland at her best was a great singer, but her acting left much to be desired. Liu (Alexia Voulgaridou)is adequate for the role, but pales in comparison with Frittoli in almost all respects. Timur (Tsymbalyuk)comes through as a great singer here, and his voice definitely has the Russian Timbre and style written all over.
Staging and Direction: Between Zhang Yimou (Beijing) and Chain Kaige (this one), I think Yimou wins hands down in all departments. I think Kaige is over-rated and should stick to Cinema. I think both the stage/theater and this opera were quite alien to him and that comes out clearly in his approach. He has this 'film-like' approach to every scene. Apart from the singers, the rest of the cast seem a little detached from the opera and the direction is rather clique ridden. This is where the real difference between the two lie. If one wants to see how a stage director does a great job, see the Levine/Zeffirelli, which is one of the best ever productions of this Opera.
The orchestra sounds like velvet and jells well with the soloists as well as the chorus and there are not many places wherein the balance is lost. I do not know if Mehta was rehearsing the Wagner Ring with these guys around the same time, as the whole approach has a distinct Wagnarian touch to it, which, at least to my ears, sounded just great. After all, Wagner was in the psyche of just about any composer who composed in the early 20th century one way or the other, and perhaps it rubbed off on Puccini as well. What may be deemed a criticism (even blasphemy music-wise), according to me, is a fresh approach that is not only different, but extremely pleasant.
I have no problems recommending this blu ray.
Puccini: TurandotFeb. 28 2011
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It is only OK since this is the only Turandot on Blu-ray. Yes, BBC Music magazine and Blu-ray.com give this one a 4 of 5 stars review. Except for 1080i and DTS-HD sound, the performance is just OK, nothing special. I would take Mazzal's Vienna production or Levine's Met performance in a heart beat. But since both of them are on DVD only, there is no choice if you really need to see the logo of DTS-HD being shown on your receicer screen throughout the performance as it was my original intention to try it out in the first place. But if you don't care about being trendy, stay with Eva Marton on DVD instead.