LABELS: RCA Red Seal
PERFORMER: Giovanna Casolla, Sergei Larin, Barbara Frittoli, Carlo Colombara, Aldo Bottion; Coro di Voci Bianche, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra & Chorus/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 60617 2
Last September, eight open-air performances of Turandot were given in the courtyard of the ancient Ming Dynasty palace in the Forbidden City of Beijing, which, of course, is where Puccini’s opera is set. This is a live recording of one of those performances, with a cast, chorus and orchestra that, earlier in the year, had performed the opera in Florence at the Maggio Musicale.
Giovanna Casolla’s icy princess begins the firm, tense arioso of ‘In questa reggia’ somewhat tremulously, but rises well to the great climax of ‘Gli enigmi sono tre’ with its high C. She is at her best in the opera’s finale, composed by Franco Alfano. (Her aria ‘Del primo pianto’ is omitted, though Puccini wanted an aria at this point in order to reveal the psychological change in his heroine.)
Sergei Larin makes a forthright Calaf, singing with attractive timbre, pure legato, and clearer diction than some of his colleagues. He makes less of an impact with ‘Nessun dorma’ than one would have expected, but elsewhere is highly effective. Barbara Frittoli sings Liù’s two arias sweetly, and the Ping-Pang-Pong trio of José Fardilha, Francesco Piccoli and Carlo Allemano offer forthright characterisations. Zubin Mehta conducts an exciting, highly charged performance. However, Maazel on Sony has a superior cast with the Vienna Philharmonic on top form. Charles Osborne