From Development server
Recordings > Editor's Choice


DVD Button Sun, Yao; Dai, Tian; China National Centre for the Performing Arts Chorus and Orchestra, Oren. Production: Chen. Accentus Music ACC20338 (DVD), 127 mins. (opera), 13 mins. (bonus), subtitled

Made in China

An almost all-Chinese production of Turandot, with a new completion by a Chinese composer.

Recordings Turandot hdl 317
A spectacle of itself: Chen’s production in Beijing
© Ling Feng
Recordings Turandot cover lg 317
Critics Choice Button 1015 

CHINESE TO THE CORE, this Turandot, created in 2008 and recorded in 2013, was the first opera production of the China National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Except for conductor Daniel Oren and lighting designer Vladimir Lukasevich, it seems to be all-Chinese, with stage director Xinyi Chen, set designer Guangjian Gao, costume designer Xiaomin Mo and a Chinese cast, chorus, dancers, supers and musicians.

Moreover, Chinese composer Weiya Hao replaced the standard Franco Alfano completion, giving Turandot beautiful, Puccini-like but original music (beginning at “Quanti ho visto morire per me!”) that helps make her love credible and her character sympathetic. Hao builds the grand final scene with Puccini’s themes—but not the melody from “Nessun dorma” that crowns the Alfano—and achieves a choral climax that is less hackneyed if more bombastic.

Chen’s effective staging uses much ceremonial and symbolic movement. Executioners dance and flip. Lantern-bearers greet the moonrise and guide a silent but poignant Prince of Persia to his doom. Through their smiles, twelve handmaidens in white encourage Turandot to love. In overlong sleeves, a beautiful, expressive dancer (Shuo Yin) portrays Princess Louling, Turandot’s wronged ancestor. A winged “Feathered Man” (Zheng Wang) escorts the dead Liù up a stairway to heaven. The sets tower above the stage but leave space for action. The costumes are colorful and ornate. 

The virile Yuqiang Dai excitingly sings the Unknown Prince. He’s fun to watch: at each ringing high note, he bends his knees then jerks upward, as if literally launching it. While not ideally inward and dreamy, his forthright “Nessun dorma” is clarion and beautiful. His most arresting moment is the climax of the riddle scene, which owners of this disc will replay often and sit friends down to see and hear. Not since Corelli….

Dai’s partner in fortissimo high Cs is Xiuwei Sun, a strikingly vulnerable Turandot. Far from an ice princess, she could be Liù’s highborn half-sister. Even in Act II, it’s clear that she knows she loves the Unknown Prince, is thrilled that he solved the riddles and goes through the motions of not yielding easily; Act III’s kiss is no more necessary than Tristan and Isolde’s potion. Lacking a voice of steel but meeting every demand, Sun has an affecting, tear-in-the-voice timbre and belies the canard that Turandot is unsympathetic.

Hong Yao’s Liù rebounds from a wobbly “Signore, ascolta” to a better, moving Act III, though her vibrato is still pronounced. Haojiang Tian, somewhat dry-voiced, embodies old Timur perfectly. Songhu Liu, Xiang Li and Yong Chen are vocally strong and visually engaging as Ping, Pang and Pong. The young NCPA chorus is good; the orchestra is excellent. Oren’s episodic Act I doesn’t build persuasively, but the climaxes of the later acts are unsubtle and splendid. —Mark Mandel 

Follow OPERA NEWS on FacebookTwitter Button