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Robert Benson, December 2015

The entire cast is strong and they act well. Highly entertaining! © 2015 Read complete review

Michael Mark
American Record Guide, March 2010

a visual delight…An interesting, informative documentary includes interviews with Kaige and the principal singers plus rehearsal footage. Guleghina…is impressively powerful and imperious. Voulgaridou sings beautifully and expressively as Liu. The supporting cast and two choruses are excellent. Mehta is an old hand at Turandot and he whips up plenty of excitement with his well-drilled orchestra.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Patrick O’Connor
Gramophone, March 2010

An extravagant production brimming with great, colourful performances

For his first venture into opera, Chinese film director Chen Kaige (most famous for Farewell My Concubine) mounted this production of Puccini’s final opera for the Palaus de les Arts Reine Sofia at Valencia. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of traditional Chinese theatre and spectacle, Chen and his designers, Liu King and Chen Tong Xun, give us a Turandot in extravagant colours and choreography, and far removed from the tired attempts at reinterpretation that mar so many contemporary stagings.

All the movement is highly stylised, so that even moments of extreme cruelty, such as the execution of the Prince of Persia in the first scene, and Liù’s suicide in the third act, are acted out with balletic movements, suggesting ancient rituals. For instance, at the end of “Tu che di gel sei cinta”, Liù winds her long silk scarf around Timur’s wrist and then strangles herself. The movement of the chorus and crowds of extras is expertly handled, and the set, using a long flight of stairs, allows the principals plenty of room for each set-piece aria or duet.

Maria Guleghina must surely now be the Turandot of our time. The role seems to hold no terrors for her, and although her enunciation of the Italian text is not always especially subtle, she makes up for it with facial gestures that show the gradual awakening of the Ice Princess. Marco Berti is a sturdy Calaf, his relationship well defined with Timur, a fine performance from Alexander Tsymbalyuk. Alexia Voulgaridou was Liù gives a warmly sympathetic account of Puccini’s favourite character, though she hasn’t the opportunity to achieve the “floating” quality at the end of “Signore, ascolta!”.

Zubin Mehta long ago recorded a favourite Turandot on disc with Sutherland, Pavarotti and Caballé (Decca, A/03). He was also in charge of the production staged in 1998 live in Beijing (on DVD from RCA) and his direction of the Valenciana Orchestra brims with direction of the Valenciana Orchestra brims with drama and affection. This new performance cannot equal the old studio set for vocal thrills but I would suggest that it is probably the best bet now for a Turandot on DVD.

Robert Levine, February 2010

Recorded at the spectacular new Santiago Calatrava-designed opera house in Valencia, Spain in May, 2008, this new production of Turandot is almost as magnificent as the Arts complex itself. Of course, there’s no such thing as a simple production of Turandot; indeed, extravagance has almost become as much a raison d’etre for this opera as Birgit Nilsson used to be. Just look at the DVD competition: Franco Zeffirelli’s for the Met is possibly his most lavish ever, with gazillions of extras and thousands of yards of silk; and one from Vienna under Valery Gergiev is almost unreal, with characters that are half mechanical, in an explosion of color and imagination that does nothing to enlighten the drama. (It features Luciano Berio’s completion of the opera, which is not very appealing, and Gabriele Schnaut wobbles her way through the title role.) A Harold Prince production from Vienna in 1983 is bountiful as well, and has Eva Marton at her best and José Carreras in fine form.

The production under consideration here is stunning. Designed by Liu King with lush, multi-textured costumes by Chen Tong Xun, it looks authentically Chinese/Royal, with exquisite colors, a marvelous pagoda, and a red-carpeted staircase rising seemingly to heaven. Turandot alone has four dresses; she adds one to the other in mid-question scene, which struck me as odd; Ping Pang and Pong look as if a paint factory had exploded in their vicinity…The gigantic-voiced Maria Guleghina is the Turandot. A rudimentary actress, she poses well and looks royal. Vocally the role holds no fears for her; and in fact, she sings more consistently on key than I’ve ever heard her in a live performance, including the mammoth high Bs and Cs…Marco Berti has what it takes for Calaf—a big voice, a pair of high Cs, stamina, nice generic passion, and sweet singing in “Non piangere Liu”…Alexia Voulgaridou makes an enchanting Liu, singing with sensitivity to the text and high notes impeccable whether piano or forte. Alexander Tsymbalyuk impresses as Timur more with volume than understanding. The three masks are superb—musical, funny, bitter…Conductor Zubin Mehta leads a performance alternately shimmering, thrilling, and detailed…The playing of the Valencia forces is as grand as the sets and costumes.

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