SF Opera's Turandot (November 2011 Cast)

Sfopera-turandot-fraccaro-foster* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's revival of Turandot (Susan Foster and Walter Fraccaro, in Act II pictured left, photograph by D. Ross Cameron/San Francisco Opera) returned for a second time this season with three new cast members and a fresh conductor yesterday evening. There were several synchronization problems between the singing and playing, and one got the sense that there were not enough rehearsals. Nonetheless, San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi had the orchestra sounding luxuriant and full.

The Timur, Christian Van Horn, sang with warmth and volume. Leah Crocetto continued to excel in Liù's "Tu che di gel sei cinta." Walter Fraccaro had some lovely plaintiveness to his singing, but he did, at times, strain to be heard. He sang "Nessun dorma" in the way we are accustomed, putting a fermata into the last "Vincerò." Susan Foster was a dynamic Turandot. Her facial expressions read well. Though some of her higher, louder notes were biting, her low notes had richness and were quite pretty.

* Tattling * 
I was more discombobulated that usual, and brought a mug of tea into the orchestra level of the War Memorial without thinking. I was roundly scolded twice, and rightfully so. There was a lot of talking during the performance. A couple in L 1 and 3 spoke during the overture and were hushed by a prominent classical music critic. The person in M 5 fell asleep for most of the opera, and snored when Ping, Pang, and Pong sang at the beginning of Act II.

SF Opera's Turandot (Opening Night 2011-2012)

Turandot-sf-opera-actiii* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's 89th season opened last night with a revival of Turandot (Iréne Theorin, Marco Berti, and Joseph Frank in Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver). David Hockney's production is as garish as ever, but quite functional, as the sets only move minimally for the scene changes. This keeps the backstage noise negligible, and lighting made for smooth transitions. The choreography was not synchronized, and oddly, the dancers as acrobats made the most glaring errors of this type.

Musically, this performance of Turandot was rather robust, especially in volume. Even still, the orchestra, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti, only occasionally overwhelmed the singers. The playing was florid, but shimmered when necessary. The chorus sounded strong and even.

Our Ping, Pang, and Pong (Hyung Yun, Greg Fedderly, and Daniel Montenegro) were winsome. Yun's baritone is warm, and for the most part, Fedderly and Montenegro have sufficient brightness to be heard over the orchestration. Raymond Aceto seemed an ideal Timur. Though the staging for his exit with Liù's corpse in Act III was awkward, Aceto sang with beauty and feeling.

Leah Crocetto (Liù) gave perhaps the finest performance of the evening. Her pianissmi were breathtaking in "Signore, ascolta!" and she sang "Tu che di gel sei cinta" exquisitely. Marco Berti sang Calaf loudly, yet without strain. He sang "Nessun dorma" cleanly, but did not sustain his last note for its full value. In the title role, Iréne Theorin was not particularly sympathetic. Her powerful voice is unsettling, which is appropriate for portraying the cruel princess.

* Tattling * 
Opening night's audience is invariably ill-behaved. The family in front of me in the last row of the balcony, Seats 112-118 passed a pair of binoculars back and forth the entire opera. At least they seemed engaged in the experience. The apparent mother of this family unwrapped a candy for nearly all of Crocetto's first aria, and spoke during "Nessun dorma" because she was so excited about recognizing the music. Afterward, she said she loved the "theme song" of the opera.

Turandot at the Met

Turandot * Notes * 
Last weekend's Saturday matinée of Turandot at the Met proved quite pleasing. Evidently the Zeffirelli production is extravagant, and judging from the audience reaction, the opulence was very much appreciated. Andris Nelsons had the orchestra playing rather loudly at times, the sound was full and rich. There was more than one time that the singers and orchestra were not synchronized, but not enough to spoil the grand effect of the whole piece.

Joshua Hopkins, Tony Stevenson, and Eduardo Valdes were amusing as Ping, Pang, and Pong; their voices sounded nice together, and their timing with each other was precise. Samuel Ramey wobbled a great deal as Timur, he certainly sounded elderly, which is perhaps fine for this part. Marina Poplavskaya (Liù) sang "Signore, ascolta!" with a beautiful plaintiveness, though her breaths were somewhat loud.

As for our two leads, neither were completely splendid, but certainly not terrible either. At times, Maria Guleghina shrieked her way through the title role, however, she was impressively imperious. Frank Poretta (Calaf) was carefully pacing himself for "Nessun dorma," which he sang with sweetness and strength. It did not sound effortless, but it was most moving.

* Tattling * 
As I waited in the standing room line for From the House of the Dead, I received a deferential message from the Lectures and Community Programs Fellow letting me know I had been reseated to Score Desk 2, as a band was going to be where I was ticketed for, and that the House Manager and Box Office had both been advised of this. When I arrived at the Score Desk Level, I saw several music stands ready for the off-stage band, and indeed some trumpets and trombones played from there in Act III. One of the house staff found me at Score Desk 2, and kindly made sure that everything was organized properly.

Turandot Reappropriated

Beijingturandot"Indeed, Turandot was considered so suspect that when it was first performed in Beijing in 1995 the setting was changed to an unnamed location in Central Asia."

A new production of Turandot was performed from March 21-26 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Hao Weiya wrote a new ending to Puccini's unfinished work and the production is to tour China and Europe later this year.

Amusingly, the name Turandot or Turandokht is Persian, meaning "Daughter of Turan." In turn, Turan means "the land of the Tur," and refers to Central Asia.

IHT Article | WSJ Article | NY Times Article |  Official Site 

Amusingly, the name Turandot or Turandokht is Persian, meaning "Daughter of Turan." In turn, Turan means "the land of the Tur," and refers to Central Asia.

IHT Article | WSJ Article | NY Times Article |  Official Site

Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Dicapo Opera Theatre's 2008-2009 Season

September 11-14 2008: The Crucible
October 10-18 2008: Turandot
December 13-21 2008: Fantastic Mr. Fox
January 16-17 2009: Lily
February 19- March 1 2009: Šárka/La mort de Sainte Alméenne
April 16-19 2009: L'Italiana in Algieri

Next season includes a world premiere of Kurt Weill's Lily and the US premieres of Janácek's Šárka and Honegger's La mort de Sainte Alméenne. Dicapo has also commissioned Francesco Cilluffo to write The Mortara Case, to be performed in the 2009-2010 season.

Press Release | Official Site

Opera Company of Philadelphia's 2008-2009 Season

October 10-24 2008: Fidelio
November 14-23 2008: L'Italiana in Algeri
February 20- March 6 2009: Turandot
April 24- May 3 2009: L'enfant et les sortilèges/Gianni Schicchi
June 5-14 2009: The Rape of Lucretia

Nathan Gunn and William Burden will be singing in The Rape of Lucretia.

Press Release | Official Site

Washington National Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 13- October 5 2008: La Traviata
September 20- October 7 2008: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
November 1-17 2008: Lucrezia Borgia
November 8-19 2008: Carmen
November 21- 22 2008: Petite Messe Solennelle
March 21- April 6 2009: Peter Grimes
May 2-17 2009: Siegfried
May 16- June 4 2009: Turandot

Renée Fleming has her WNO debut in Lucrezia Borgia. Denyce Graves sings the title role of Carmen, in the Zambello production from ROH. The Zandra Rhodes production of Les Pêcheurs de Perles is the one we had here in San Francisco in 2005.

Perché un dì nella reggia m'hai sorriso.

Opening night of the opera is splendid event. Everyone dresses up in a most lavish manner, and there are flowers everywhere. This year red roses decorated the boxes and filled enormous vases in the halls. I spent a half hour before the performance and both the intermissions simply gaping and tittering at all the splendid gowns and so forth. I particularly liked a muted gold gown that resembled an egg carton, but more pointy. I laughed every time the lady who wore it came within my view, which probably was extremely rude, but I really could not help myself.

Turandot is not my favorite opera, and Puccini is not my favorite composer of operas. For one thing, Puccini's overtures are incredibly quick affairs that only confuse me, and Turandot's were no exception. The set design and costume design of this production was absolutely lurid, perhaps because of the oriental aspect of the setting. The backgrounds that were meant to look faux Chinese were very flat and not unlike paper cut-outs. Everything was very red and green and pink. There were absurd death heads hanging from rafters above in the first act that were a special annoyance to me for some reason.

Nonetheless, the singing was very good. Jane Eaglen (Turandot), Patricia Racette (Liù), and Jon Villars (Calaf) all had gorgeous voices. I found the music for Ping, Pang, and Pong rather adorable, and Hernan Iturralde, Jonathan Boyd, and Felipe Rojas did a fine job with the choreography, acting, and singing. They had a good dynamic together.

The libretto is full of holes. In this production Turandot intially looked quite joyed by Calaf's correct answer to her last riddle, and then frightened and enraged only later, which seems like an attempt to make her change of heart in the end more plausible.

I liked the acrobats. This was something that simply thrilled my blood.