Puccini: Turandot, Premiere
The Opera House, Tel Aviv
The enormous dramatic and highly charged tension, ambience, atmosphere and effects of Puccini's Turandot were impressively created by the Israeli Opera Orchestra, the Opera Chorus, the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Chorus and the Bat Kol Chorus, conducted by Rani Calderon.
Many of the soloists also rose above mediocrity at Sunday night's premiere. In the title role, Sylvia Valayra's soprano was clear, hard, forceful, cold and unexpressive - just as required for this unappealing character. As Ping, Pang and Pong, baritone Olivier Grand and tenors Felix Livshitz and Yosef Aridan poignantly captured the comicality and irony of their roles with deliberate, well-pointed ambiguity.
Liu, impersonated by Susanna Branchini, deserves the doubtful distinction as the performance's disappointment. Instead of portraying her lovable character's frailty, delicacy and devotion, she preferred to display her admittedly strong soprano with unrestrained robustness and shouts. One could well understand why Calaf did not fall in love with her. Calaf, the opera's passionate lover-tenor, sounded quite indifferent throughout the first two acts. He seemed to have reserved his resources for Act III, when at last he let loose in his great aria "Nessun dorma" for some genuinely impassioned expression. There was nothing majestic or authoritative about Sami Bechar's pale and soft tenor in the role of the Emperor.
Nuria Espert's direction and Ezio Frigerio's sets were tailored to achieve grandiosity, without much subtlety or sophistication. The stage was densely crowded most of the time with figures constantly moving around without much sense of direction or purpose. The final climax deteriorated to primitive technicolor.
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