Puccini: Turandotby Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland
Turandot, Puccini's last opera, tells the tale of a mythical Chinese Ice Princess whose heart is melted by an ardent young suitor. Sopranos who tackle this hefty role must be fearless, and Joan Sutherland -- heard here at her peak -- certainly had the oomph to tackle the part. If Pavarotti had to be identified with a single aria, it would surely be "Nessun Dorma," sung in his role as Calaf, the insistent suitor. Other tenors, from Georges Thill to Jon Vickers, have made splendid recordings of the aria, but Luciano made it into the pop hit that it is today. All the more reason to hear it in context as the showstopper that it is. The sinuously soft notes of Montserrat Caballé as the slave girl, Liù, and Peter Pears as the venerable Emperor Altoum are added attractions. Conductor Zubin Mehta's taste for the spectacular is perfectly suited to Puccini's colorful score.
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- Turandot, opera
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When choosing a Turandot, there are a number of wonderful recordings to pick from. Corelli singing Calaf is not to be missed, neither is Nilsson's steely acount of the titular princess on the same recording. Barbara Frittoli is the most finely sung Liu on record, and the Forbidden City recording has much to offer in terms of ambiance and sound quality, but there are no other stellar performances. So the choice is down to the Karajan recording for DG and the London/Decca record with Mehta conducting. Both have wonderful things to offer the listener and it really comes down to personal tastes. The Wiener Phil is incredible on the DG recording. The sound is all digital and is wonderuflly overwhelming. Karajan, in 1982 firmly in his "orchestra first" period, leads the Vienna forces with a firm, majestic hand, allowing all of the nuances of Puccini's most finely-wrought and most musically compelx score to bloom in full. Mehta and the London Symphony are strong, but seem distant and in the backseat for most of the recording. Between the Turandots, Sutherland (at her prime in '72) is the more strongly sung rendition. Ricciarelli for DG is light of voice and almost fragile sounding at times, though neither soprano brings the type of iron-clad singing required for the part. If the principessa is your favorite part, get the Nilsson recording. Both Liu's are strong, though Hendricks's honeyed tone and lighter color win my vote. Caballe is vocally magnificent, but is only that. Beautiful of line but not of character. Of the tenors...so hard to choose between Domingo and Pavarotti!! Again, it depends on what you truly love. Domingo sings with an urgency and heroism befitting the character, but the role is too high for him. To hear a truly magical moment from the tenor's career, purchase the DVD of Turandot from the MET. Domingo was in heroic voice that evening...truly incredible. While I prefer Domingo in general, Pavarotti won me over on record. It all seems so easy for him. His brilliant tone soars over the music and rings perfectly...not to be misseed! The rest of the supporting players are great on both recordings, with a stronger Ping, Pang, and Pong on the Decca release. Have fun and go with your ear!
From the first few notes, you'll be hooked by this rendition of Turandot. I've listened to this performance 60 times & never tire of it...Pavarotti is at his best. Montserrat Caballe as the slave girl Liu is heartbreakingly beautiful. Add the London Philharmonic's perfect performance and you have possibly the best opera performance ever.
Mehta is truly the maestro for Turandot. I have seen the DVD ''Turandot in the Forbidden City of Peking'', conducted also by Mehta and featuring a talented crowd that are almost as brilliant as Sutherland, Pavarotti, and the rest of the crew in this CD set. It is said that Sutherland never played Turandot in any of her live performance, which, in my opinion, was quite a huge loss to her loyal fans. She's got the strength and magic to take on this role - her divine highness of the coldness of ice mixed with sparks of flame. Her performance is beyond words, especially in ''In Questa Reggia'' and ''Straniero, Ascolta''. Caballe's Liu is not a major role, somehow she balances this mostly ''male dominant'' opera with her soft yet angelic voice. Pavarotti once again proves himself the king of the tenor, with tremendous passion. Ping, Pong and Pang are just as cute and sincere as they could be¿ Puccini's operas are very challenging yet this CD set says for itself that with the right crowd and all, the crown jewels are still reachable.
I have seen Turandot performed live more than once and have listened to several recordings. For me, nothing surpasses this version - for the ear. We have here a rare convergence of great talent: Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballe, Ghiaurov and Mehta. Magnificent! What's lacking? The visual. Turandot is grand opera and while the music come first, the visual aspect is important. What a treat it would be if this aural recording could be combined with a visual presentation, such as Mehta's Beijing performance.
I had bought this great recording of Turandot when on a trip with my choral group to the east coast. We had a spare day to linger at a local mall, so I headed fopr the CD store. I found the Boheme with Mirella Freni and Pavoratti, and this Turandot. Since I already have a La Boheme, I decided on Turandot-- and I was amazed at this redition! The sound is crystal clear-- though it's not really a recent recording, and the cast is brilliant. The Liu is heartbreaking in her arias; the Turandot is beautifly crisp and chilly, until her last duets, when she melts into warm emotion. I can't say I care much for Pavoratti-- but in this case, it's the exception. He is THE Calaf, with a powerful "nessun dorma" at his command. Of course, I can't leave Timur without mention-- after Liu's suicide, with his lament-- I nearly cried on the spot. I have to praise the chorus as well. They did a splendid job. From the exciting "gira la cote" to the tranquil boy's chorus in act one and its refrain in act two. All in all, a recording bordered on perfection.