Puccinidir. Nœria Espert

COMPOSERS: Puccinidir. Nœria Espert
LABELS: TDK
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: Turandot
PERFORMER: Luana DeVol, Franco Farina, Barbara Frittoli, Stefano Palatchi; Chorus & Orchestra of Gran Teatre del Liceu/Giuliano Carella; dir. Núria Espert (Barcelona, 2005)

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CATALOGUE NO: DVWW-OPTURL (NTSC system; DD 5.1, dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
In her production of Puccini’s ultimate masterpiece, using the standard shorter version of the Alfano completion, and filmed here in Barcelona in 2005, Núria Espert makes a couple of unusual interpretative interventions. Following Liù’s suicide, Timur rejects his son, Calaf, while the spirit of the girl appears to watch, posthumously, over developments. More crucially, after joining in the final, increasingly passionate duet, Turandot takes her own life in the opera’s closing bars.

Well, it’s an attempt to make an ending some find troubling more acceptable, though the dramatic

idea – as in Monteverdi’s Poppea or Wagner’s Tristan – is surely that for two people entirely absorbed in one another, sacrificing others

is what you do.

For the rest, this is a largely traditional representation of a dark-fairy-tale Peking, though recreated in Ezio Frigerio’s sets and Franca Squarciapino’s costumes on an unusually magnificent scale. Interestingly, Espert also suggests an overall female dominance at court, with the Ping-Pang-Pong trio here

visibly feminized.

Luana DeVol, taking the title role with genuine vocal and dramatic command, was new to me: the inspiring story of her late rise to a major solo career is included in a worthwhile documentary. Franco Farina acts and sings a good, solid Calaf, though some of his money notes wobble a little. Barbara Frittoli provides a memorable Liù, and Stefano Palatchi’s Timur is imposing.

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Strong playing and singing from the in-house forces of the Liceu and Giuliano Carella’s idiomatic conducting add to the performance’s overall authority. George Hall