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Turandot (II) [CD] by Giacomo Puccini

Turandot (II) [CD] (edition 1994)

by Giacomo Puccini (Composer), Inge Borkh (Performer), Renata Tebaldi (Performer), Mario Del Monaco (Performer), Alberto Erede (Conductor)1 more, Orquesta y coro de la accademia di Santa Cecilia de Roma (Orchestra)

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Title:Turandot (II) [CD]
Authors:Giacomo Puccini (Composer)
Other authors:Inge Borkh (Performer), Renata Tebaldi (Performer), Mario Del Monaco (Performer), Alberto Erede (Conductor), Orquesta y coro de la accademia di Santa Cecilia de Roma (Orchestra)
Info:1959 The DECCA record company limited. 1994 Ediciones Orbis [Madrid]. Opera Collection
Collections:Your library, Music, Audio CD
Tags:Opera, Classical Music, CD, Music

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Turandot [complete recordings] by Giacomo Puccini



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Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)

Lyric Drama in three acts and five scenes

Libretto: Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni
The last duet and finale of the opera were completed by: Franco Alfano

Katia Ricciarelli – Turandot, a Chinese princess
Plácido Domingo – The unknown prince (Calaf)

Barbara Hendricks – Liu, a young slave girl
Ruggero Raimondi – Timur, deposed king of the Tartars, father of Calaf
Gottfried Hornik – Ping, Chancellor
Heinz Zednik – Pang, General purveyor
Francisco Araiza – Pong, Chief cook
Piero de Palma – Emperor of China, father of Turandot

Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Sängerknaben
Wiener Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan

[Recorded: 5/1981, Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna.]

Deutsche Grammophon, 1988. 2CD. 60’28+71’51. Libretto (It+Eng+Ger+Fr). Illustrated booklet. Liner notes by Moscow Carner. Cover: “Enter the Forbidden City” (1981) by Jörg Schmeisser. In slipcase.


Karajan loved Puccini. This is often forgotten when he is discussed from an exclusively Beethovenian, Brahmsian, Wagnerian, Brucknerian or Straussian point of view. Three of the four great Puccinian masterpieces entered Karajan’s repertoire back in the 1930s when he was struggling in the small provincial theatres of Ulm and Aachen. (It seems strange to some curiously ignorant folk, but Karajan wasn’t born at the helm of the Berliner Philharmoniker. He worked hard for 25 years to get there.) Later he conducted a great deal and recorded Madama Butterfly (1955, 1974), Tosca (1962, 1979) and La Bohème (1965, 1972) twice each. The case of Turandot is radically different. Not only is this his only recording, but he never, to the best of my knowledge, conducted the work in the theatre. So much for the old chestnut that an artist must first forge an interpretation live before it is committed on record. For this is a great recording.

It has its problems, of course. The two leads somewhat struggle with their parts, to begin with. Ricciarelli is a touchingly human Turandot in the lyrical sections (just listen to her plea to the Emperor in the end of Act II), but she almost screams in the dramatic ones. I’m sorry Karajan couldn’t, or wouldn’t, use Ghena Dimitrova who was then at the peak of her career, and one of the great Turandots of all time. Domingo could likewise be considered a great Calaf only if Corelli and Del Monaco had never existed. Even Pavarotti, an essentially lyric voice unsuited to the part, dwarfs Plácido’s attempt. He is “so musical”, his fans say – so he is, indeed, but he doesn’t have the voice for the part all the same. The other chief problem is the sound. Clean and crisp as it is, it could have had more depth and sonority. It didn’t altogether escape the curse of The Digital Dryness.

The recording has its positive sides, too. Even Ricciarelli and Domingo, especially Ricciarelli, have their moments, not least in their great confrontations, the Riddle Scene and finale. The sound may not be as sumptuous as Decca, but it could have been worse. A lot worse! Barbara Hendricks is a wonderful Liu, angelic and humble, yet with a steely edge that nobody suspects. The small parts are marvellously sung, too. The Ping-Pang-Pong trio is particularly notable with their perfect diction and timing.

But the greatest asset of this recording is, of course, Karajan. Trite but true. It passes belief that he never conducted the work in the opera house. What he would have produced if he had! It’s difficult to describe what makes Karajan’s Puccini work so well. Perhaps one could draw a tentative parallel with Walter Scott’s words about Jane Austen. “The big bow-wow I can do myself like anyone going”, Sir Walter said, “but the exquisite touch which renders commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me.” Likewise many conductors can create stupendous orchestral climaxes, yet they miss the essential and revealing detail (or end up as a jumble of incongruous details, like Abbado and Maazel too often do). And there is something else, perhaps even more important. Karajan has a most uncanny sense for the music’s flow. This is terribly important. In the late Puccini, or in the early one for that matter, the music and the action are continuous. A stuttering and gasping performance, no matter how great here and there, would easily become boring and even unendurable.

This is what I so often other conductors in this opera – stuttering and gasping, no matter how great their singers can be. The best Turandot recommendations in stereo usually are Mehta’s 1972 recording with Sutherland and Pavarotti and the 1965 production with Nilsson and Corelli under the baton of Molinari-Pradelli. Excellent recordings, vocally superior to this one, obviously, but the conducting is light years behind Karajan. Mehta is the classic example of a conductor who can do the “big bow-wow” as well as anybody but has serious problems with the pacing and the overall structure of the work. If you can’t make up your mind whether Karajan’s recording is worth having, there is an excellent set of highlights to help you out. ( )
  Waldstein | Sep 24, 2016 |
Live performance in the Forbidden City. Performances are okay. You can only tell it's live at the ends of the acts when you hear applause. No one seems to be getting excited over individual arias. Or maybe they don't do that in China. "Nessun dorma" is the showpiece and is adequate.
  marfita | Jul 25, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Giacomo Pucciniprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eaglen, Janesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Neill, Dennissecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parry, DavidConductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philharmonia OrchestraOrchestrasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plazas, Marysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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