Written by: Colin Anderson
The Russian tenor discusses the role of Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot and also Kirov Opera and its director Valery Gergiev…
Seven operas in six days – that sounds about right when Valery Gergiev is the conductor. He is synonymous with the Kirov Opera (more correctly known as the Mariinsky Theatre). Gergiev is bringing the company to the Royal Opera for a week-long stint of three operas – Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, and Puccini’s Turandot.
I ask tenor Vladimir Galuzin, who sings Calaf in Turandot, about Gergiev’s dynamism in putting the Kirov on an internationally respected footing. “When a performance is finished maestro Gergiev will go to a restaurant with the singers, and with sponsors and producers, and sit until two or three in the morning and discuss tours and plans; it’s constant hard work and that is what has got the theatre to its current standing. Gergiev doesn’t stop for a minute.” Galuzin enjoys working with Gergiev the conductor and appreciates his “tempos and the nuances he finds in the music.”
In singing Calaf, Galuzin “loves the music and the role. Calaf is a warrior not a poet, but there are also poetical elements.” It seems, though, that for Galuzin the opera’s plot “is fairly primitive. Calaf comes to Peking to solve three riddles because he’s lost everything, lost all the power he’s ever had, but then falls in love with Turandot. Then he gives her a chance to solve his riddle; he is playing with his life.” I ask about Nessun dorma, with its World Cup and Pavarotti associations. “I perform it as I can; the point is Calaf either wins or dies. The main thing is the music; if you look at the dramaturgy there are inconsistencies and silliness in the story. Turandot being so cold and cruel is difficult to work with, but the music is so wonderful, so incredible.”
Irina Gordei is Turandot. Galuzin has sung opposite many different Turandots but whenever he sings Calaf at the Mariinsky Theatre it is with Gordei: “she’s the best, wonderful.” I ask about the Kirov’s production of Turandot. “It’s a very beautiful production with modern elements; it’s eclectic but it’s not a Zeferelli production: it’s not all in gold hues.” Galuzin says it is his favourite Turandot staging.
The singer outlines the current repertoire of the Kirov. “Russian, of course, classical and modern; there are wide borders, Italian opera and lots of Wagner at the moment.” Mussorgsky’s two great operas, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, which tell of significant times in Russia’s history, are central to the Kirov’s London week and to the Kirov itself. “You can’t underestimate Mussorgsky. Today he is still the source, the inspiration, for many modern composers; he was ahead of his time.” Certainly Shostakovich was linked to Mussorgsky’s machinations and his orchestration of Khovanshchina is used, which Galuzin believes is “the strongest.”
So a busy week awaits the charismatic Kirov Opera and it’s an enthralling time for opera enthusiasts. I forget to ask if Turandot, unfinished at Puccini’s death, is being performed with the normal Alfano ending or the recent, altogether more exploratory one by the late Luciano Berio. Let’s make that another riddle and find out on the night. Vladimir Galuzin has recently sung Calaf for Royal Opera; on the same stage, with Kirov Opera, he will, as always, “try to do better than before, but every performance is different.” This has been a busy year for the France-based tenor, and as Kirov tours are sometimes hastily arranged, he wasn’t meant to sing this time, but the lure is great: “it’s like returning home to your own family.”
- Kirov Opera at Royal Opera House between 1-6 August
- Box office: 020 7304 4000
- Royal Opera
- The above article was published in “What’s On in London” on 27 July 2005 and is reproduced here with permission