Puccini: Turandot

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Turandot
PERFORMER: Eva Marton, Ben Heppner, Margaret Price, Claes H Ahnsjö, Jan-Hendrik Rootering; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/Roberto Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 09026-60898-2 DDD
Margaret Price’s exquisitely sung Liù excepted, this is a pretty undistinguished Turandot whose raison d’être is difficult to fathom. The presence of Eva Marton in the title role guarantees decibels and staying power, which are, of course, qualities necessary to suggest something of the icy princess’s proud imperiousness (at least in the early stages of the opera). But she gives little hint of any psychological maturing, and the voice is considerably less steady and her phrasing bumpier than on her previous recording of the role. Her Calaf, the Canadian Ben Heppner, is also disappointingly undercharacterised, strained and not unidiomatic enough to suggest an attempt at a fresh alternative.

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Much of the problem with this performance lies with Roberto Abbado’s low-key conducting – short on both passion and humour – which turns the work into a succession of static tableaux rather than goal-directed psychological warfare. There’s no sense, for example, in which the ending of Act I emerges as the point of no return; in Abbado’s hands it’s merely another big, flaccid chorus. And the Ping, Pang, Pong routines come over as tedious interruptions, rather than as strategically placed devices to diffuse one set of tensions and prepare for another set ofmore devastating ones. In all, anill-conceived project, I think.Antony Bye