Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET -- TURANDOT. Live Performance 2009. Rebroadcast May 2010.

This Franco Zeffirelli production of Giacomo Puccini's masterpiece Turandot is, in a word, magnificent.

Based on a Chinese fable, Turandot is the story of a princess who is desired by all the eligible and noble bachelors who come in hopes of winning her hand in marriage. But Turandot, under the influence of a female ancestor who was raped and beaten by men, will have none of it. She demands that every suitor answer three riddles, and if he fails -- as they all do -- he is beheaded. A mysterious prince [Calaf] is horrified by the woman's actions, but when he finally sees her it's love -- or at least lust -- at first sight, and to the dismay of his father and the young woman who has always loved him, he decides to try his hand at the riddles. So ends the first act of three.

Maria Guleghina is Turandot and Marcello Giordani is Calaf in this production and both have wonderful moments; for instance, Giordani nails "Nessum Dorma," the great aria in act three. [In a backstage interview during intermission with hostess Patricia Racette, both singers reveal warm and winning personalities.] Marina Poplavskaya makes a highly favorable impression as the tragic figure of Liu, who has dedicated her life to the father of the man she has forever loved from afar. Samuel Ramey is the father, Timur, and Charles Anthony [who also displays a winning personality in an interview] is the Emperor Altoum.

Andris Nelsons is the conductor, and Gary Halvorson the director of the televised program. Zeffirelli not only conceived the production but designed the memorably beautiful and striking sets.

Puccini's music is moving, uplifting, dramatic, and gorgeous.

Verdict: A stunner. ****.

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