If the vocal performances were of equal stature to the conducting, orchestral playing and sound engineering, this would be my favourite opera recording, period. I am having a hard time evaluating this because of the extreme range of quality. For me the biggest letdown was Dennis O'Neill as Calaf, who simply did not have a strong enough voice for this role. Mario del Monaco, whom I consider to have been mediocre, was far better. As for Jane Eaglen, I am not a huge fan of her singing, I thought her performance was adequate. Her diction, even in English, was sometimes not very good. She had excellent power and accuracy, but I found the tone of the voice too shrill. While Turandot is described as the Ice Princess, this applies to her spitefulness and hatred of men and is reflected in her acting; yet at the same time, she has to look and sound beautiful, being supremely desirable at the same time. Eaglen's vocalization was more suitable in my view to Elektra than Turandot. It should also be mentioned that those who like her singing will not be dissapointed with this performance. The rest of the cast, particularly Nicolai Gedda as the Emperor, was excellent. Anytime neither Turandot nor Calaf were singing, this was sheer joy to listen to.
The English translation takes some getting used to, but if there is one benefit, the first scene of Act II was more entertaining. Overall, I still prefer the Italian original, it is to my ear more lyrical.
I found the conducting, tempi and orchestral playing to be the equal of any other recording of this opera, and it was great to hear the score at such a lively tempo without any loss of detail. The Karajan DGG set is marvellous too, but it drags a bit compared to this one.
Last and most importantly, the sound engineering is as close to perfection as any recording I have heard in about 32 years of listening to classical music on record, equalling or surpassing a good number of Super Audio CDs and Audio DVDs. I have never heard this much detail in this score on another recording or twice in the opera house. While listening at one point I thought there was someone at the front door, but not so - it was in the music. For those who revel in rich orchestral sound, and are prepared to tolerate very inconsistent vocalization, this set could be "desert island" material. It simply has to be heard to be believed. The balance between voices and orchestra is also superb. The performance has several spectacular moments, not the least of which is the scene change in Act II. The sumptuousness and grandliloquence literally brought me to tears.
For me this recording is a favourite alongside the great Zubin Mehta set with the London Philharmonic for Decca. I wish this set had the sound engineering of the Chandos release, then it would be a world-beater.
I recommend this set as a demonstration recording for testing audio equipment. It was played on my computer, with Harman Kardon speakers. Typical of highest quality audio recordings, the bass response was outstanding. The music easily filled our house, both floors.