The Metropolitan Opera – Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s Turandot – Christine Goerke, Michelle Bradley, Yusif Eyvazov, Alexander Tsymbaluk; conducted by Marco Armiliato

Puccini
Turandot – Lyric drama in three acts to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami & Renato Simoni, based on the dramatic fairy tale by Carlo Gozzi [final duet and scene completed by Franco Alfano; sung in Italian, with Met surtitles in English, German, Italian and Spanish]

★★★★☆

Turandot – Christine Goerke
Liù – Michelle Bradley
Calàf – Yusif Eyvazov
Timur – Alexander Tsymbaluk
Emperor Altoum – Carlo Bosi
Ping – Alexey Lavrov
Pang – Tony Stevenson
Pong – Eric Ferring
Three Masks – Elliott Reiland, Ilia Pankratov, Amir Levy
Mandarin – Javier Arrey
Executioner – Arthur Lazalde
Prince of Persia – Sasha Semin

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Marco Armiliato

Franco Zeffirelli – Production & Set Designer
Anna Anni & Dada Saligeri – Costume Designers
Gil Wechsler – Lighting Designer
Chiang Ching – Choreographer
Knighten Smit – Revival Stage Director


4.5 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 29 October, 2021
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

In this, the Metropolitan Opera’s sixteenth revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s shimmering, over-the-top opulent, visually stunning and immensely popular 1987 staging of Puccini’s final masterwork, Turandot, soprano Christine Goerke and tenor Yusif Eyvazov return to the highly demanding roles they assumed in October 2019 when this production was last mounted — she as the cold-hearted Chinese princess of the title who tests the worthiness of her suitors by posing three riddles, and he as the exiled Prince of Tartary who is determined to win her love at the risk of losing his head. They, along with the other soloists and the company’s gargantuan Chorus bring dynamic vocalism and dramatic vitality to the fore while Marco Armiliato leads a confident response to Puccini’s sophisticated score, a pastiche of Eastern and Western motifs, peppered with angular melodies and startling dissonant chords.

Goerke delivers a commanding portrayal of the ruthless principessa. Astonishingly assured, she is in full and solid voice throughout. She uses her powerful and intensely dramatic soprano to most thrilling effect in ‘In questa reggia’, the Act Two aria in which she recounts the story of her beautiful ancestor, Princess Lou-Ling, who was abducted and killed by a conquering prince, and how in revenge she herself has determined that no man shall ever possess her. In the riddle scene her unrelenting fury is on full display.

Well-cast as the riddle-solving Prince Calàf, the attractive and athletic-looking Eyvazov is most impressive in the upper registers. His clarion top notes, especially in ‘Nessun Dorma’, the show-stopping Act Three aria, in which he holds the high-B of “Vincero!” far longer than is common and draws the loudest and longest applause of the evening, are riveting. But while his voice is thrilling in the upper ranges, it is less than ideally suited to the music’s more lyrical passages, in which he sometimes sounds rather rough and raw. He is nevertheless a fine actor and musician with a large vocal instrument and a secure sense of phrasing and rhythm.

As the slave-girl Liù in the employ of the blind King Timur and his son Prince Calàf, with whom she is secretly in love, Michelle Bradley gets to deliver two gorgeous arias. Her vibrant, unusually strong dramatic soprano is appropriately poignant in ‘Signore, ascolta’, her heart-breaking appeal to Calàf in Act One, and her Act Three ‘Tanto amore segreto” – delivered just before she stabs herself to death – is vivid and moving.

Bass-baritone Alexander Tsymbalyuk, singing with great vocal and dramatic conviction, convincingly depicts Timur, the exiled King of Tartary. Tenor Carlo Bosi is an age-weary but elegant Emperor Altoum, and as the Mandarin who reads the three edicts to the crowd, Javier Arrey displays a sturdy and richly toned baritone.

Under the able hand of revival director J. Knighten Smit, the splendid Met Chorus handles Zeffirelli’s densely-packed staging with ease, and its richly expressive ensemble singing – ranging from eerie to victorious – does complete justice to Puccini’s exhilarating creation.

Further performances on November 2, 6, 12, 16, April 30, May 3, 7 (matinee), 11 and 14; there are several different casting combinations.

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