The Staatsoper Orchestra and Chorus Excel Once Again in Turandot

AustriaAustria Puccini, Turandot: Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of the Wiener Staatsoper, Marco Armiliato (conductor), Staatsoper, Vienna, 7.9.2016. (JMI)

Turandot © Michael Pöhn


Turandot – Lise Lindstrom
Calaf – Marcello Giordani
Liú – Olga Bezsmertna
Timur – Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Ping – Gabriel Bermúdez
Pang – Jinxu Xiahou
Pong – Norbert Ernst
Mandarin – Paolo Rumetz
Altoum – Heinz Zednik


Director & Sets and Lighting – Marco Arturo Marelli
Costumes – Dagmar Niefind

This performance of Turandot bore some resemblance to that of Carmen the day before: in neither case did the cast live up to what is to be expected from one of the best opera houses in the world. However, that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the evening, because with the marvellous orchestra one forgets everything else.

The Marco Arturo Marelli staging had its premiere here last season. Marelli is a well-known director whose productions are characterized by good taste. He usually does not go for the so-called conceptual versions, but here he offered something different: a focus on Puccini’s obsession with this unfinished opera. With the first notes of the score we are in the studio of Puccini, who is none other than Calaf, working on the score. We then move to a theatre, where the chorus occupies the spectators’ seats before a stage where the action takes place. The same thing occurs in Act III, which again takes place in the Puccini/Calaf room before a final scene in the above-mentioned theatre. Liú at the start of the opera and in Act III is Puccini’s servant, and represents Doria, a servant in Puccini’s real life who died by committing suicide, as does Liú.

The action takes place in the 1920s, the time of the opera’s composition, with some curious touches like the three ministers presented as characters from the Commedia dell’arte and Emperor Altoum in a wheel chair. In short, the production is far less grandiose than many others, much more intimate, and it works reasonably well.

Marco Armiliato is one of the favourite conductors of top opera singers. This Genovese conductor has found a perfect compromise between serving the singers and serving the music, which explains why he is constantly in demand by divos and opera houses. His conducting here was superb, and he drew a great performance from the marvellous house orchestra, which justifies any journey to Vienna. The chorus too was excellent.

Once again Turandot was sung by American soprano Lise Lindstrom. She is at her best in the high register, powerful and bright, while her middle range is not to be compared with other dramatic sopranos of the moment. In any case, she dominates the character on stage, and is an appealing interpreter of the Ice Princess.

Calaf was to have been played by Johan Botha, but he cancelled and it has been announced this morning that he passed away at the age of 51 – a terrible loss for opera, and he will be greatly missed. His replacement was Marcello Giordani, who is not in the best moment of his career. He still retains his top notes, which are the best part of his voice, and he had no problem with the high B of ‘Nessun Dorma’ or the alternative high C at the end of Act II. His middle range has never been exceptional and is now duller than before, and there is a vibrato that did not exist previously. His lower notes are difficult. He’s not the Giordani of five years ago, but he is still a solid performer.

Soprano Olga Bezsmertna was not fully convincing in the character of Liú-Doria. Her voice and her singing are somewhat impersonal. She did not shine in ‘Signore ascolta’, which was short on emotion, but she improved in the final act, although there were problems inTu che di gel sei cinta’.

Dan Paul Dumitrescu did well in the role of Timur and there were good performances from the three ministers, played by Gabriel Bermudez (Ping), Jinxu Xiahou (Pang) and Norbert Ernst (Pong). Paolo Rumetz was a sonorous Mandarin, and veteran (76) Heinz Zednik was an appropriate Emperor Altoum.

The Staatsoper was almost, but not completely, full. The audience was very enthusiastic, with the biggest ovations dedicated to Marco Armiliato and Olga Bezsmertna.

José M. Irurzun

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