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Turandot

Giacomo Puccini
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
(2006)

Production photo

Just as those without tickets for the World Cup surround a big screen on the outskirts of a German city, so those without opera seats gather around a screen erected in Covent Garden Piazza or, simoultaneously, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, Duthie Park, Aberdeen, the Botanical Gardens, Belfast, and others in Birmingham, Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Rotherham as well as, for the first time, one at Bowness on Windermere.

This mass approach to opera is evidently catching on. For this revival of Andrei Serban’s massive production for the Royal Opera of Puccini’s last work, first posthumously produced in the ‘twenties, we had not only the full company of Royal Opera principals orchestra and extras but also the attentions of a media team led by former ballet star Deborah Bull and a team of technicials.

There were also three young tenors, borrowed briefly from the chorus, to lead us all in the piazza singalong of nothing less than Nessun dorma itself. Encouraged by the chorous master, we all bellowed out this souvenir from an earlier world cup with much ghusto.

It was not, it must be said, up to the real thing, sung in the opera house itself by the superb Canadian tenor Ben Heppner. But then he is a real singer with a string of top roles under his belt from Idomenio to Lohengrin, working with more conductors than a Decca catalogue.

Opposite Heppner’s flawless Prince Calaf is the Hungarian soprano Georgina Lukacs in her role debut as the formidable man-hating Turandot. Her pure, powerful voice projects the great Puccini areas with a force that makes one truly wonder at the ultimate power of this fictional heroine. In questa reggia is a case in point, before the two voices together reach the ecstacy of top C.

In a thrilling contrast is the gentle soprano of Elena Klessidi as the ill-fated slave-girl Liù, in a performance which has delighted audiences in Amsterdam, Berlin and Miami.

There are also excellent character studies from Robert Lloyd as Timur and from George Lagunes, Robin Leggate and Alasdair Elliott as Ping, Pang and Pong, along with Francis Egerton as Turandot’s father.

Sally Jacobs’ designs for this elaborate fairy story of legendary ancient China are imaginative and spectacular and, together with vivid costumes combine to produce a visual feast to match the colour of the enormous score.

The production is under the baton of the Hungarian Stephan Solensz who leaves no room for doubt in orchestra or audience of his great affection for this spectacular work of a brilliant swansong.

The production of "Turandot" can be seen at Covent Garden on Monday 10th , Tuesday 11th, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 13, 14 and 15th and on Thursday 20th, 21st and 22nd July.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole