In Review > North America

Turandot

DETROIT
Michigan Opera Theatre
5/10/14

The sound of John Arnold's authoritative bass-baritone rolling out into the Detroit Opera House as his Mandarin unfurled the edict declaring Princess Turandot's demands was an auspicious sign that this last offering of Michigan Opera Theatre's spring 2014 season would go very well — and it did (seen May 10).  With its engaging traditional sets, richly detailed costuming and sensitive lighting, MOT's Turandot production, directed by Garnett Bruce, treated us to the full spectacle of what opera can be. The show employed more than 300 participants, from principals to children's chorus, but evening's success can be attributed to its creation of a true ensemble. 

This was no better symbolized than in the mesmerizing chorus, which sang with power, nuance and utter security. Their sheer mass made it almost impossible to spot the Act I arrival of Liù and Timur, Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi and Riccardo Lugo. Lugo's fluidity in the Italian language and the pleasurable resonance of his bass made one grateful for his presence. The slave girl Liù is the part designed to steal the audience's sympathy. D'Annunzio Lombardi's soprano has a steely timbre and size in her middle and upper passaggio — sounding almost Turandot-ish at moments — but both "Signore, ascolta!" and "Tu che di gel sei cinta" won us over completely. D'Annunzio Lombardi's spinning, nearly endless pianissimos convinced us of the softness of Liu's heart.

Soprano Lise Lindstrom already has more than 100 performances of Turandot to her credit. Her voice is more than ample enough for the role —  Lindstrom could pin us to our seats with sheer volume — and she commands the stage with practiced imperial gestures, but Lindstrom understands that a great Turandot needs to find the moments when the character's vulnerability can be revealed. The soprano accomplishes just that, delivering in Act III soft yet insistent legato phrases, though Puccini gives her few opportunities to do so. We saw the tender heart beneath the glacial, dragon assoluta exterior.  Tenor Rudy Park, her Calaf, invested his singing in all three acts with impressive confidence, winning an eruption of applause from the audience after "Nessun dorma!" By the time that Park and Lindstrom reached the high-stakes vocal poker round in Act III, the audience was transported: both singers showed thrilling tenacity and poise.

Eugene Villanueva (Ping), Julius Ahn (Pang) and Scott Ramsey (Pong), dressed in lively, brilliantly colored costumes, were smartly matched in vocal power and skill, giving us an extra dose of credibility and humanity instead of pandering for comic relief.  Ahn in particular gave a lithe, multi-faceted performance.     

One must acknowledge conductor Valerio Galli's sensitivity to matters of Puccinian style.  In his enthusiastically received MOT conducting debut, Galli contributed greatly to the seamless success of a memorable evening. spacer

DEBORAH GOVER

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