Turandot - Puccini - Sydney Opera House - 7.30pm Wed 8th Feb 2012
This performance was extremely enjoyable in almost every respect. It is a privilege to be able to have such high quality opera again in Sydney. The company seems to have finally realised that to have international quality opera you have to use star singers (and conductors), often from overseas. On Wednesday, patrons had the bonus of two massive cruise ships on the harbour as well as a full moon. The latter could have been part of the opera!
American Susan Foster played the title role, producing a veritable torrent of vocalism with her incisive and beautiful soprano voice. ‘In questa reggia’ and the subsequent riddle scene of Act II was her tour-de-force with exemplary and exciting singing. She sneered at her suitor, only to melt and decay when he succeeded in answering the third riddle. Australian tenor Rosario La Spina was every bit her vocal equal, producing glorious singing and creditable acting in all three acts. Perhaps the opera should be called ‘Calaf’ rather than Turandot! La Spina goes from strength to strength as shown especially in his masterly rendition of Nessun dorma in Act III. As the hapless Liu Italian soprano Daria Masiero sang and acted superbly, using poise and dignity in her downfall and death, finally convincing the icy princess to yield to her prince.
With three top principal singers, the rest of the company rose to the occasion with high standards indeed. Timur was portrayed well by Jud Arthur. Ping, Pang and Pong were also well cast as Andrew Moran, David Corcoran and Graeme Macfarlane. Warwick Fyfe played an excellent town crier. This should all reassure subscribers that the company can still deliver, despite some very thin offerings at times in the recent past.
The production by Graham Murphy is full of movement, colour and clever devices, each apposite to the libretto. The score likewise contains many tricks-of-the-trade, as Puccini was still in control of his great powers of drama and composition (at least until Liu's death in the middle of Act III, at which point the composer died). Thus there are large complex choruses, children on stage, a suicide in full view, pentatonic motifs, a (very) memorable last-act aria and much more.
The chorus singing was accurate and at times very powerful, making the soaring principal voices even more exciting in this relatively small auditorium. The sublime and novel orchestration of Turandot was led by Arvo Vomer on the podium and the Opera and Ballet Orchestra responded brilliantly.
Turandot is possibly the last example of 19th century-style opera, even though it dates from 1924. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Leonard Bernstein and just about every composer since owes something to Giacomo Puccini. So do we all.
Comments by Andrew Byrne ..
PS - don't forget the cheap seats in the side "loges" at the SOH. $65 is a bargain!
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