In this fifteenth revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s shimmering staging of Puccini’s final masterpiece, Turandot, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts his first Puccini opera at the Met and does an unequivocally masterful job of coordinating the orchestral and vocal forces. Skillfully shaping the suave and innovative score with a remarkable blend of energy, color and flow, he keeps the dramatic tension high, while imbuing every moment with feeling.
Reprising her forceful portrayal of the heartless principessa (last seen here in 2015), Christine Goerke is in full and steady voice and completely at ease in the role. She uses her thrilling dramatic soprano to stirring effect in her great aria, ‘In questa reggia’, and in posing the three riddles to her suitor, Prince Calàf, she most effectively displays her character’s terrifying nature.
While Goerke’s singing is every bit as stentorian as Puccini’s music requires, the same cannot be said for Yusif Eyvazov as the riddle-solving Prince. He is appropriately attractive and ardent-looking as Turandot’s suitor, but his less than iron-lunged tenor never sufficiently soars. In ‘Nessun dorma’ he opts for brief dramatic bursts rather than longer, more lyrical lines and falls short of totally conveying Calàf’s incautious infatuation.
As the slave-girl Liù who secretly loves Calàf and chooses to kill herself rather than betray him, Eleonora Buratto gets some of the opera’s most poignant arias. Her soprano is not particularly pretty, but it is appropriately affecting in ‘Signore, ascolta’, her Act One appeal to Calàf, as it is in the heart-breaking ‘Tanto amore segreto’ delivered just before she stabs herself to death.
Met veteran James Morris is impressive as a full-voiced and touchingly befuddled Timur, the exiled King of Tartary and father of Calàf, a role he first sang in the Met’s 1974-75 season. Act Two risks being stolen by Turandot's three volatile ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, nimbly portrayed. ‘Ho una casa’, their nostalgic reverie for their country cottages, is one of the evening’s dreamier delights.
Noteworthy performances are delivered by Carlo Bosi as the elderly Emperor Altoum, who adequately projects his attractive tenor from the high throne at the far reaches of the Met’s monumental stage, and strong-voiced baritone Javier Arrey as the Mandarin who reads the edict of the three riddles to the crowd. And the Met choristers are outstanding.
Zeffirelli’s production is astonishing in its attention to detail and Paula Suozzi has done a very effective job of synchronizing the actions of the crowds that inhabit this legendary version of Peking. This Turandot remains a dazzling spectacle, just as in 1987.