Turandot

Puccini Turandot opera to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Directed 2013 by Andrew Sinclair (after Andrei Serban) at the Royal Opera House. Stars Lise Lindstrom (Turandot), Marco Berti (Calaf), Eri Nakamura (Liù)  Dionysios Sourbis (Ping), Douglas Jones (Pong), David Butt Philip (Pang), Alasdair Elliott (Altoum), and Raymond Aceto (Timur), and Michel de Souza (Mandarin). Henrik Nánási conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus. Includes a bonus extra called "Behind the Masks." Designs by Sally Jacobs; choreography by Kate Flatt; directed for TV by Ian Russell.  Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This Andrei Serban production goes back to 1984 and has long been a ROH dreadnaught with some 15 revivals. This version was recorded 2013 for HDVD release. It is the first recording by conductor Henrik Nánási.

David Patrick Stearns, writing in the August 2014 Gramophone at pages 91 and 93, states that ". . . the most immediate problem in this DVD is the production's depth of field, which seems to have [made it] impossible for video director Ian Russell to capture [the stage action reasonably well] amid low lighting levels and surprisingly limited camera angles. Often the chorus disappears into stage murk. The prevalence of stage-level shots that look up at the set distractingly reveals a lighting appartus that takes you out of the opera's world." Wow. This is the first time I've seen a traditional music critic appearing in print speak of the fine points of videography! Unfortunately, you can't tell if Stearns saw this in DVD or Blu-ray. But Stearn's comments would suggest you approach this title cautiously.You hate to think that a recording of show that's been popular for decades could fail due to bad camera work!

Patrick Dillon wrote this up in the November 2014 Opera News at page 57. His review was mildly favorable stating that the production is still "vigorous and vibrant." But he threw out several red flags. For example, he warns, "Emperor Altoum descends on a 'cloud' that looks like a tattered lampshade." This suggests he saw the Blu-ray version, because HD cameras often reveal how seedy old sets really look. Dillon also observes, " It's hard to imagine a less romantic hero than the stout, wooden, flat-footed Marco Berti . . . his every attempt at dramatic expression looks the same." H'm. This is a new recording (not an attempt to spruce up an older video).  But this could well be a case where you would be happier with the DVD or a more up-to-date production.

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