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HomeOperaPhilipp Stölzl explores Turandot’s brutal facet as Zubin Mehta pulls the strings...

Philipp Stölzl explores Turandot’s brutal facet as Zubin Mehta pulls the strings in Berlin – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Germany Puccini, Turandot: Soloists, Staatsopern Chor Berlin (refrain grasp: Martin Wright), Staatskapelle Berlin / Zubin Mehta (conductor). Filmed (directed by Tiziano Mancini) on 18.6.2022 at Staatsoper Unter den Linden however out there till 13.1.2023 on ARTE Live performance. (JPr)

Yusif Eyvazov (Calaf) on the finish of Turandot Act I

Manufacturing –
Director and Set design – Philipp Stölzl
Assistant director – Philipp M. Krenn
Costumes – Ursula Kudrna
Lighting – Philipp Stölzl and Irene Selka
Choreography – Christopher Tölle
Dramaturgy – Jana Beckmann

Turandot – Elena Pankratova
Altoum – Siegfried Jerusalem
Timur – René Pape
Calaf – Yusif Eyvazov
Liù – Aida Garifullina
Ping – Gyula Orendt
Pang – Andrés Moreno García
Pong – Siyabonga Maqungo
Mandarin – David Oštrek

Puccini was drawn to Carlo Gozzi’s 1762 play as a result of an unique setting had already proved successful for him with Madama Butterfly (evaluate click on right here) and the plot was much less lifelike than a few of his others. He was fascinated by Turandot, an icily merciless princess, who could be very totally different to his different principal feminine characters most of whom had been candy and obedient creations doomed to endure and generally die for love. The composer was significantly taken by ‘The Unknown Prince’ Calaf’s ‘journey’ and the way he ends the opera. As well as, he demanded from his librettists, Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, all kinds of characters: Ping, Pang and Pong present a sure comedian – albeit closely ironic – reduction and the doomed slave woman Liù (not within the unique Gozzi story) is there to counterbalance the princess’s character. Lastly there are the doable autobiographical components: is Calaf an image of Puccini himself, is Turandot his spouse Elvira and is Liù, the tragic Doria Manfredi of the notorious scandal?

Turandot proved troublesome and after 5 years the orchestration was virtually full with solely the ultimate duet (after Liù’s demise and the scene by which Turandot is reworked by Calaf’s kiss right into a warm-hearted human being able to love) lacking early in 1924. Early in November that yr Puccini went to Brussels to be handled for a throat tumour and died later that month following an unsuccessful operation. So, Turandot shares its destiny with numerous different twentieth-century operas – equivalent to Busoni’s Doktor Faust, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron and Alban Berg’s Lulu – all left unfinished when their composers died.

Puccini’s music for Turandot is in lots of respects his most superior and most fashionable in fashion. In fact, Turandot is the product of early-twentieth century Orientalism – the fascination of the West with the ‘unique’ cultures of the East – and with a view to create a extra ‘lifelike’ Chinese language environment, Puccini learn many books on the tradition and ceremonies of China. He additionally sought out actual Chinese language music to mimic. Puccini solely used people songs for the music of Ping, Pang, and Pong and so theirs is the one gentle music in your complete opera while general he used a minimum of eight genuine Chinese language tunes. The pentatonic scale – the dimensions you get while you play simply the black keys on the piano – creates an ‘japanese’ sound and ‘oriental’ sounding harmonies are produced by juxtaposing main and minor collectively. There are a variety of percussion results, and the composer commissioned a set of 13 gongs particularly for his new opera.

Clearly, the Orientalism and feminine humiliation – amongst different points in Turandot – has more and more created issues for these staging it and whether or not Stölzl meets these head-on or simply ignores them I’m not certain. We hear from the three minsters how ‘Turandot doesn’t exist!’ and which will clarify the massive string puppet model of Turandot which dominates the stage to the exclusion of a lot else. The refrain are confined to the fringes of the stage and are in greyish – barely militaristic – boiler fits and have slick black hair and are reasonably like caricatures. Overseeing the surging crowd in the beginning are guards in shiny crimson with batons who deal with them brutally. (As I write this there’s this headline in a British newspaper ‘Why China’s demented zero-Covid obsession is now not about well being, it’s about energy and mass surveillance’, and this will provide you with just a little thought what Stölzl reveals on the Berlin stage.) Calaf, Timur and Liù are in white with, for me, a touch of the Terracotta warriors about their costumes; Ping, Pang, Pong are additionally in white with crimson bowler hats and look as if they’ve stepped out of a Chinese language staging of Ready for Godot; and eventually, Emperor Altoum can also be in army uniform and is saluted because the supreme chief. The lighting is generally gloomy although there are some intriguing color and summary patterns from Stölzl and Irene Selka for the Act II scene because the ministers replicate on their lot in life atop a pile of skulls.

The puppet Turandot dominates the primary act although her doll like face just isn’t revealed for some whereas. First, we see its monumental skirt raise and with a lot of smoke, the executioner is there sharpening his knife. Stölzl doesn’t shrink back from the brutality of Turandot’s regime and the therapy and demise of the Prince of Persia – who’s thrown about on some stairs earlier than having their throat torn out – is kind of graphic. Later the lifeless suitors who’ve failed Turandot’s riddles cross the stage like zombies. Calaf appears extra eager about fantasy reasonably than actuality and proclaims ‘I need victory! I need love!’ which will get him a slap from Liù. An enormous bulb comes down which Calaf rises within the air to ‘strike’ and it lights up as he will get entangled with the puppet.

Within the second act, there’s the robotic motion of the gang acquainted from mass celebrations in varied dictatorships. The emperor rises up from the puppet’s skirt which opens and divulges its framework and gold lining because the ‘actual’ Turandot seems in her personal voluminous robe. A big golden disc is proven in the back of the stage as Calaf confronts Turandot. The princess takes off her wig and the puppet – which has gained some legs – loses its personal hair as doves and a coronary heart are proven in its chest earlier than the face drops to disclose a cranium. Calaf just isn’t eager about something aside from the chimera.

Philipp Stölzl’s Turandot Act III © Matthias Baus

Within the ultimate act, the puppet is not more than the highest half of a skeleton with six legs and the massive bulb is again. Anybody caught sleeping is violently dispatched and thrown down right into a cistern (initially the rostrum for the puppet). It’s from right here that Turandot will stand up on the prime of the steps. Ping, Pang, Pong with their pliers, hooks and a knife to torture Liù verify how they’re much extra Turandot’s enforcers than they’re normally portrayed as. Liù stabs herself and the individuals recognise her sacrifice and she or he is carried off. The puppet has misplaced its cranium whereas Calaf continues to deal with the doll’s face from the sooner acts. Calaf refers to Turandot because the ‘Princess of demise!’ and – probably acknowledging all of the harmless lives she has extinguished – the ministers hand her some poison which she drinks. Calaf and Turandot lastly embrace and kiss as she dies with the bulb flickering on and off.

Simply what Stölzl desires us to remove from this I’m not certain however there are definitely numerous intriguing tableaux. Undoubtedly it was – general – a fantastic success musically (a minimum of as heard via my loudspeakers). A significant and dramatic refrain is crucial to Turandot and the Staatsopern Chor Berlin had been dedicated to their half in Stölzl’s Konzept and mightily spectacular. After his current travails it was good to see Zubin Mehta trying so comparatively properly and he brilliantly crafted the thrilling interpretation of Puccini’s vibrant rating splendidly performed by the Staatskapelle Berlin.

There have been very good vignettes from Gyula Orendt, Andrés Moreno García and Siyabonga Maqungo as Ping, Pang and Pong. David Oštrek was a stentorian Mandarin. Siegfried Jerusalem did little for his legacy by his look right here – now in his 80s – as Altoum and sounding frailer than his character ought to. Additionally not at his greatest was René Pape’s gravelly Timur and his prolonged profession is likely to be catching up with him (more often than not he appeared to overlook he was presupposed to be blind). Made to face out from the gang was Aida Garifullina’s Liù and anyone trying much less like a slave can’t be imagined. Her Liù was uncommonly sturdy; ‘Signore, ascolta’ and ‘Tu che di gel sei cinto’ had been movingly acted and sung with nice feeling to attract the viewers into her character’s plight.

Yusif Eyvazov gave a comparatively subdued, unshowy efficiency, whereas convincingly revealing himself as one thing of a deluded, impassive ‘bastard’, prepared to let Liù die in order that he can obtain his objective of conquering Turandot. Eyvazov’s strong tenor voice has a baritonal center and completely safe prime and the spotlight of his singing was an assuredly ardent – if extra reflective than some – ‘Nessun dorma’.

Elena Pankratova was a stately Turandot, however she introduced throughout her character’s cruelty, petulance, worry and, simply probably, burgeoning humanity when she knew she was dying, very properly certainly. The factor that mattered most was her singing and her vibrant, steely voice was musically correct and wobble-free. Each nuance of her phrases mattered and all her pronouncements – ‘In questa reggia’ included – had been provided with imperious impact.

Jim Pritchard



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