Powerful Turandot From Juventus Lyrica

ArgentinaArgentina Puccini, Turandot: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Juventus Lyrica / Antonio Maria Russo (conductor), Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 1.9.2017. (JSJ)

Juventus Lyrica’s Turandot. Photo - Liliana Morsia.
Juventus Lyrica’s Turandot (c) Liliana Morsia

Turandot – Svetlana Volosenko
Calaf – Justo Rodrí­guez Sánchez
Liù – Ivana Ledesma
Timur – Felipe Cudina Begovic
Ping – Fernando Grassi
Pong – Jerónimo Vargas Gómez
Pang – Pablo Urban
Altoum – Norberto Lara
Mandarin – Walter Aón

Director/sets – Ana D’Anna
Costumes – María Jaunarena
Lighting – Gonzalo Córdova
Chorus – Antonio Maria Russo
Children’s chorus – Rosana Bravo

Having missed Juventus Lyrica’s first production of the season, Norma, during a period of extended travel, I was particularly keen to seen the second, a new production of Turandot.

The company has gone from strength to strength over its 17 years while still maintaining its original aim of providing a platform for young and up and coming singers. And this production maintained this tradition, with a rather more substantial setting than usually seen making good use of the stage and a variety of lush and colourful dress and both new and lesser known singers.

For producer Ana D’Anna – a co-founder of Juventus Lyrica – Turandot is primarily about ‘power’ – the power of Altoum, of Ping, Pong and Pang, of Turandot herself and ultimately about the love which liberates the icy princess.

In essence one suitor after another has put themselves forward to marry Turandot, daughter of Altoum, but none so far have managed to answer the three riddles they are required to and have gone to their doom – that is, until Calaf takes up the challenge. But Calaf is the son of the deposed king, Timur, now aged and blind and neither, for obvious reasons, want their real identity to be revealed.

As D’Anna makes clear, Turandot’s power is absolute – over her father, her people and her potential husband. And – in the cast I saw – Svetlana Volosenko, a Ukrainian with long residence in Buenos Aires, in the title role was a suitably commanding figure both visually and vocally, although with some weakness in her Italian diction.

But Paraguayan tenor Justo Rodríguez Sánchez in the role of Calaf well stood up to her and after a shaky start amply demonstrated his powers in ‘Nessun dorma’. Likewise, Felipe Cudina Begovic made for a dignified and vocally sound Timur.

But the greatest vocal power at least lay with Liù, the poor and loyal servant girl, played by Ivana Ledesma with beauty and clarity. Her two arias ‘Signore ascolta’ and ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’ won her enthusiastic applause.

The three functionaries Ping, Pong and Pang were well played, indeed at times overacted, respectively by Fernando Grassi, Jerónimo Vargas Gómez and Pablo Urban.

The choruses, especially the children’s chorus, also were to par.

The weakest point, however, was on the musical side. Perhaps it was because the score was a reduced version (by Enrico Minaglia) but the orchestra, while technically irreproachable, seemed to lack punch. From what should have been steely opening chords portending what was to come, the dramatic aspects were mostly muted with few contrasts.

This was undoubtedly an ambitious venture for Juventus Lyrica and while good rather than excellent, marks another milestone for the company.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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