By Lynne Gray, PhD
Please note this can be seen at www.metopera.org
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Thursday, August 13
Starring Nina Stemme, Anita Hartig, Marco Berti, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk, conducted by Paolo Carignani. From January 30, 2016.
This is the third time around – and so the third cast we’ve had the opportunity to see – in
Franco Zeffirelli’s spectacular, golden production of Puccini’s Turandot. This one stars the great dramatic soprano Nina Stemme as Turandot, the icy Chinese princess who refuses all suitors due to the mistreatment visited upon her female ancestors by men in the past. Marco Berti is Calàf this time, the mysterious prince who succeeds in solving Turandot’s riddles, but then has to take a bit more time – and drama – to finally win her love. Berti made a serviceable Calàf, if you just love Puccini and want to hear and see this glorious production it again (we’ve already commented on the Met’s many issues with finding really good tenors these days!). Anita Hartig actually steals this show with her gorgeously and emotionally sung Liù, the faithful slave girl who gives her life to save Calàf. Alexander Tsymbalyuk is Timur; Ping, Pang, and Pong (Dwayne Croft, Tony Stevenson, and Eduardo Valdes) have rarely been presented with more panache, and Paolo Carignani conducts.
Familiar arias to listen for if you’re planning to watch this one: Liù’s impassioned plea to Calàf not to risk his life for Turandot, “Signore, ascolta!” (My lord, please listen), Calàf’s response, “Non piangere, Liù!” (Don’t cry, Liù), even though he remains unmoved by her plea; Liù, Timur, and the ministers’ sad reply of, “Morte!” (Death) as the crowd declares, “stiamo già scavando la tua tomba!” (we’re already digging your grave!); “Ah! Per l’ultima volta” (Ah! For the last time..) and all of the wonderful antics of Ping, Pang and Pong – who are the welcome comic relief in this legendary tale that certainly has its gruesome moments.
Early in the second act we are introduced to Turandot and her story, “In questa reggia” (In this kingdom) and then there is the riddle scene – first riddle: “Straniero, ascolta!” (Stranger, listen… What is born each night and dies each dawn?) The Prince correctly replies, “Speranza” (Hope). The Princess, unnerved, presents her second riddle: “Guizza al pari di fiamma” (What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?). The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, “Sangue” (Blood). The crowd cheers the Prince, provoking Turandot’s anger. She presents her third riddle: “Gelo che ti da foco” (What is ice which gives you fire and which your fire freezes still more?) As the prince thinks, Turandot taunts him “what is the ice that makes you burn?” The taunt allows him to see that she is referring to the two of them – the answer he proclaims, “E Turandot!”
So, the Prince has won, but there is still the entire third act to go and we have yet to hear the most famous aria,” Nessun Dorma” (No one sleeps…. but at dawn, I shall win!). Calàf declares he will not take Turandot by force, he wants her love, and offers her an “out” – Tell me my name before sunrise, and at dawn, I will die. To hear how the opera’s second challenge goes, as well as hear Liù’s absolutely beautiful, “Tu che di gel sei cinta…” (You who are made of ice …. you will love him (too)) before she stabs herself in order to escape from Turandot’s torture and to save Calàf – you’ll want to stay for the visually stunning and musically gorgeous last scenes – even if, like me, you aren’t so fond of Calàf’s choice in women (or the Met’s choice in tenors)!
1. The wedding scene from Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Met, 2016. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.
2. Dwayne Croft, Tony Stevenson, and Eduardo Valdes as Ping, Pang and Pong and Marco Berti as Calàf in Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Met, 2016. Photo Credit: Marty Sohl /Met Opera.
3. Alexander Tsymbalyuk (kneeling left) as Timur, Anita Hartig (center) as Liù, with Nina Stemme as the title character in Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Met, 2016. Photo Credit: Marty Sohl /Met Opera.
4. Nina Stemme in the title role and Marco Berti as Calaf in Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Met, 2016. Photo Credit: Marty Sohl / Met Opera.