We take a closer look about what is being said about Andrei Serban’s staging of Puccini’s final opera, directed for this revival by Jack Furness.
Broadway World: **** “It is the chorus that shines brightest of all. Rather than merely supporting the principals, they, adults and children, set the tone with that opening that invites, nay, compels us to become co-conspirators in Turandot’s psychotic construction of a trail of severed heads. Later the chorus demands us to fear her retribution on all Peking if she cannot save herself from her unwanted marriage. Is it these post-pandemic times that allow us to empathise more with these masked people than we would were they not covered and endangered by an unpredictable threat? Whatever it was, the alchemy worked, as the frisson of complicity lasted throughout the performance.”
The Stage: ***** “An impressive cast includes Anna Pirozzi, the Turandot of choice in many large opera houses, and the Calaf of Yonghoon Lee, a strapping Korean warrior prince with a steely tenor that equals his Turandot in volume, if not beauty. This lofty couple is complemented by the warm humanity of Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha as Liù, a role debut for this former Jette Parker Young Artist who is on everyone’s rising-star list. Ukrainian bass Vitalij Kowaljow is a sprightly-sounding Timur. Amid all this doom and foreboding, thank goodness for the commedia dell’arte antics of Ping (amiable baritone Hansung Yoo), Pang (cheeky Welsh tenor Aled Hall) and Pong, played by young Scottish tenor Michael Gibson who is currently on the Young Artist programme. Ignoring the atmosphere of fear and violence, they mock the pompous ceremony with their nimble clowning.”
The FT: “With Pappano and the Royal Opera orchestra on top form, the music glitters with invention at every turn, showing how brilliantly Puccini turned his hand to the grand ceremonial that is such a feature of the opera. Turandot has not sounded so blazing a masterpiece, even going back to 1984 when this production was new.”
London Unattached: “Conducted last night by Antonio Pappano, I believe in his own first ‘staged’ performance of the work, the music is sublime and for me the Alfano additions are seamless. And, as the flowers thrown from boxes onto the stage for the final curtain suggests, it’s a wonderful and entrancing production with some great stars singing at the top of their game. Both orchestra and chorus were impressive. This is the Royal Opera on form – and as a production that has been adapted and performed at Wembley with a ‘singalong’ Nessun Dorma, one that should appeal to the Arts Council, even if it hasn’t quite made it to a car park yet…”
iNews: **** “Deeply, unfashionably, unapologetically splendid, this Turandot is a parting gift from another era – an outlier at a time of sober understatement and pared-back seriousness. See it. Once it’s gone, we’ll never see the like again.”
Bachtrack: **** “Anchoring the whole performance was Pappano’s inspired reading of the score, one of the finest we have heard. From the snarl of the opening bars to the sweetness of the strings in the boy’s choir, not a single detail was missed in this lush, at times almost symphonic account of Puccini’s most modern piece. The pacing was on point, almost luxurious in “Non piangere, Liù” and the balance between pit and stage adroitly judged. A triumphant debut for Pappano.”
Culture Whisper: ***** “But the other big story of the night was Sir Antonio Pappano, conducting Turandot for the first time in London, with his customary flair for Italian music and with the orchestra of the Royal Opera House on top form. He has recorded the opera too, with his Rome orchestra and A-list singers: that recording is out now. But for the full Turandot experience, see this production. Absolutely no one will sleep…”
Turndot continues to play at the Royal Opera House until the 13th April.