In the 1997/98 Teatro Real season, the first one after its reopening, some of the great operas of 20th Century were premiered in its stage: Britten's Peter Grimes, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess and Puccini's Turandot, in the ROH classic production by Andrei Serban. One of those performances was telecasted and we could see it in Youtube. Afterwards, there were unexplainably no performances of Puccini's last masterpiece, until the current 2018/2019 season. In Summer 2011, there were a performance in Templo de Debod and a handful in two cultural centres by Opera Moncloa, a student company, but with limitated resources. As a result, many people attending this performances might be seeing this opera for the first time.
The ice princess returns twenty years later to Madrid, in a completely different production, directed by Robert Wilson, the famous minimalist director. However, there were ups and downs in this production. This performances are dedicated in memoriam to the late Montserrat Caballé, who passed away in last October. She was a renowned Liù and Turandot.
Wilson's visions are influenced by Japanese traditional theatre, based on a drastic reduction of props and movements, and the most important element being lighting, to create a captivating and oneiric atmosphere. This could be seen some kind of weird in Turandot, which many associate exotism, and spectacular, lavish sets and costumes. In this production, we see the story as a horror fairy tale, almost a nightmare. Dark blue and red lighting suggest how death, terror and fascination is haunting the Chinese due to Turandot's actions by sending all pretenders to death. The brave Calaf defies all this but according this Spanish article, his quest is useless since Turandot kills herself.
At entering the theatre, a red curtain and a tube LED lighting the edge of the stage welcome the audience. At rising the curtain the stage is lighted in blue, with some soldiers dressed like teracotta and the Mandarin among them. The chorus appears and so does Calaf, Liù and Timur almost at the same time. Turandot will appear from the highness to condemn the Prince of Persia. The Three ministers Ping, Pang and Pong have more liberty to move and joke, since they are the comedy counterpart of the tragedy surrounding this story. Act 2 is by far the most spectacular with all the chorus, characters on stage, the emperor Altoum descending from heaven sit in a swing and Turandot emerging from the people. Act Three starts with a sort of a big bush or spiderweb, from which Calaf will emerge to sing Nessun Dorma. Liù's death is a sort of weird moment, since her death is suggested by turn her lights off and her being quiet. After that, Calaf and Turandot are completely along and singing each other separated and in a distance. When Turandot reveals the name of the foreigner prince, Calaf dissappears, the chorus sings while the lighting becomes red and a yellow beam seems to split the stage.
After a great success in Aida last winter, Nicola Luisotti returns to conduct the Teatro Real Orchestra, in a remarkable way: he achieves a spectacular sound with the orchestra, and the finales are incredibly spectacular, as well as the musical interludes in Acts 2 and 3. However, sometimes the tempi are too fast in some moments, like Act 1 final chorus or the three ministers scene and also he abuses the forte, and even surpasses the singers in some moments. But in spite of the ups and downs, the conducting was a high level, and it seems to improve as the performances go by. The Teatro Real Chorus was magnificent, reaching an outstanding rendition in the Gira la cote scene.
Irene Theorin has taken the role of Turandot replacing the indisposed Nina Stemme. She is a major wagnerian soprano, but she is able to succeed here. Her diction is good, and her voice beautiful and with a great volume. Her high notes are astonishing, since they can surpass all her fellow cast, the chorus and orchestra. Unforgettable the finale of Act 2.
Gregory Kunde is still in a good shape, and Calaf seems to be more confortable to his voice than Radamès and Otello. Despite a beggining with some trouble in high register who seemed to show a bit aged voice, by the end of the same Act he was at his best, with a long and amazing high note naming Turandot with the gong, and during Act 2 in the riddle scene they were even more outstanding. The Nessun Dorma was the best moment in the night, not only due to the beauty of the music but also due to Kunde's technique and vocal beauty for this aria.
Yolanda Auyanet was a good Liù, but some troubled in high register, despite that her Signore, ascolta was a really moving moment, as well as her death scene, where she displayed her dramatism and good voice. Andrea Mastroni was a decent Timur. The veteran Raúl Giménez was a well sung Altoum. The three ministers were well sung and acted: Joan Martín Royo has a beautiful voice for Ping, Juan Antonio Sanabria was a really funny Pang, and both Vicenç Esteve as Pong as Gerardo Bullón as the mandarin sang well their parts, specially Bullón, whose mandarin had a beautiful tone.
The audience did feel like to see Turandot, and there was a high occupation of the seats, despite being a holiday day in Spain, and applauded enthusiastically the artists, specially Auyanet, Kunde and Theorin. We hope Turandot returns one day to Madrid, or any other theatre as soon as possible, since twenty years of absence are really too much, and Puccini doesn't deserve it.
My reviews are not professional and express only my opinions. As a non English native speaker I apologise for any mistake.
Most of the photographs are from the internet and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural.
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