Turandot (Metropolitan Opera, NR)

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The Metropolitan Opera simulcast of Turandot, enjoyed by an almost full house at the Saint Louis Art Museum on November 7, is a textbook example of opera at its grandest.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Metropolitan Opera simulcast of Turandot, enjoyed by an almost full house at the Saint 
Louis Art Museum on November 7, is a textbook example of opera at its grandest. Big voices, 
splendid sets and costumes, and a stage bursting with performers (including tumblers and a 
trio of executioners who seemed to have stepped right out of a muscle magazine) in one of 
the classics of the modern repertoire. 
This was the 1987 Franco Zeffirelli production and to say that sets are stunning doesn’t 
quite suffice. I can see why some patrons are sorry that Zeffirelli’s Tosca has been 
transitioned out of the Met’s repertoire even though I loved the Luc Bondy production also 
simulcast earlier this fall.  The royal palace is almost overwhelming in its golden 
splendor, while the grim pre-execution darkness outside the palace walls perfectly 
communicates the barren despair which grips the land. There’s wonderful detail wherever you 
look and lighting designer Gil Wechsler provides some magical moments, from the first 
reveal of Turandot to convincing transitions from darkness to daylight. Costumes by Anna 
Anni and Dada Saligeri were perfectly in line with the tenor of the production (although 
they did make Liù look more than a bit like Pocahontas) and provided several great 
character moments, most notably the transition of Turandot from ice princess to vulnerable 
woman. Hey, there’s even heads on pikes for the small boy in all of us (and we were also 
treated to a discussion of severed heads in opera by propmaster James Blumenfeld during an 
intermission interview) 
Tenor Marcello Giordani is a noble Calàf although his “Nessun dorma” seemed a bit 
understated and there was an awkward pause near the end of the aria (presumably to allow 
the applause to clear) which broke up the flow of the music. Maria Guleghina certainly has 
the voice for Turandot and she assumed the necessary icy manner as well (as she said in one 
an intermission interviews, it’s no fun playing a character everyone hates) while Marina 
Poplavskaya as Liù showed a wonderful pianissimo command in her upper range. Samuel Ramey 
brought a grave presence and penetrating voice to his role as Timur. The program does not 
list the cast members for the roles of the ministers Ping Pang and Pong but judging from 
curtain calls they were six in all: three who sang movingly of their country homes in “Ho 
una casa nell’ Honan” and three more in masks who performed acrobatics.   
Conductor Andris Nelsons, making his Metropolitan Opera debut, provided a polished reading 
of Puccini’s score. He also has matinee-idol good looks and no lack of presence on camera—
maybe he can be the ambassador of classical music for today’s generation of young people as 
Leonard Bernstein was for the post-war generation. The performance on Saturday was 
unfortunately marred by the singers and orchestra going out of sync several times, but 
given the size of the production it’s a wonder it worked as well as it did. I feel the same way
about some technical problems in Saturday’s simulcast—mainly brief gaps in the sound 

and picture—given the complexity of transmitting high-definition video and audio from a 
live performance in New York to theaters all over the world, it’s also a wonder there have 
been so few problems. 
The Metropolitan simulcasts are performed in the original language and subtitled in 
English. Next up is Les Contes d’Hoffman (Dec. 19) in a new production by Bartlett Sher and 
starring Joseph Calleja, Alan Held, Kathleen Kim, Anna Netrebko, Ekaterina Gubanova and 
Kate Lindsay. The remaining operas in the series are Der Rosenkavalier (Jan. 9), Carmen 
(Jan. 16), Simon Boccanegra (Feb. 6), Hamlet (March 27) and Armida (May 1). Further 
information is available from the Museum at http://saintlouis.art.museum/index.aspx?id=373 
and tickets are available from from the museum box office or from Metrotix at 
www.metrotix.com  or 314-534-1111.  | Sarah Boslaugh

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