Tuesday 11 July 2017

Not a classic: Puccini's Turandot revived at Covent Garden

Puccini: Turandot - Robin Leggate and Christine Goerke - © Tristram Kenton | ROH
Robin Leggate and Christine Goerke
© Tristram Kenton | ROH
Puccini Turandot; Christina Goerke, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Hibla Gerzmava, Dan Ettinger; Royal Opera House
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Jul 9 2017
Star rating: 3.0

Andrei Serban's popular production returns for a disappointing revival

Andrei Serban’s Turandot now in its 33rd year and for the 16th time of asking is revived at Covent Garden on 9 July 2017 under the baton of Dan Ettinger with Christina Goerke, Aleksandrs Antonenko and Hibla Gerzmava.

I confess to being long smitten by this productions vivid imagery, economic direction and fluid choreography. The chorus watch the action unfold from their balconies like the baying hordes in a Roman amphitheatre sending waves of glorious sound into the auditorium. Admittedly there are no great psychological insights but then that’s as much to do with the piece itself. You simply can’t help falling in love with Liu, her music is sublime and the rushed ending leaves you uneasy with a schizophrenic ‘Ice Princess’ who refuses to be objectified and the self-interested (or self-destructive) Calaf both seemingly impervious to the sufferings of others. I venture there’s an argument to be made for us to hear the complete Alfano ending one day, potentially providing a more dramatically, if not musically, satisfying end.

When all said and done it is what it is and I’ve spent many a happy evening over the years enjoying its pleasures. So it absolutely pains me to report that on this particular evening I was disappointed. Not that anything about it was particularly egregious – it was just plain dull. Where the dynamic music should pulse with electricity it sounded lumpen and with Aleksandrs Antonenko having a bad day at the office it made for a stodgy evening.
I had a suspicion from the beginning, with a woolly middle voice and a laboured top, that all was not well with Mr. Antonenko. By Act 3 he was, all too clearly, doing as little as possible simply to make it to the end. A heroic effort and a great pity. Christine Goerke gamely tried to flesh out Turandot’s turmoil, at once imperious then with discreet gestures hinting at the gradual melting of her heart. She has a sensual chest voice and when she opens up a thrilling top which was at times strangled by some very peculiar vowels.

What really punctured my balloon was the disengaged performance and unremittingly steely tone of Hibla Gerzmava as Liu depriving me of my own falling in love moment. Michel de Souza, Aled Hall and Pavel Petrov as Ping, Pang and Pong injected some badly needed enthusiasm and energy; Robin Leggate, as you’d expect, did the business as Emporer Altoum but by the end I was well and truly deflated.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

The Royal Opera
Sunday 9 July 2017
Princess Turandot : Christine Goerke
Calaf : Aleksandrs Antonenko
Liu : Hibla Gerzmava
Ping : Michel de Souza
Pang : Aled Hall
Pong : Pavel Petrov
Emperor : Robin Leggate
Timur : In Sung Sim
Mandarin : Yuriy Yurchuk
Conductor : Dan Ettinger
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Director : Andrei Serban
Revival Director : Andrew Sinclair, Designer : Sally Jacobs, Lighting Designer : F. Mitchell Dana, Choreography : Kate Flatt

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