Andrea Bocelli is one of the most successful classical artists of all time, having sold some 80 million albums of both classical and pop music.
Puccini (1858-1924) was one of the most successful opera composers of his day, and famously passed away before being able to finish his last great masterpiece, Turandot.
His colleague, Franco Alfano, was tasked with its completion.
In this intensely moving recording of Turandot, Bocelli shows why he has experienced such global success. In the lead role of Calaf, Bocelli is determined, strident and passionate, as he strives to solve the three riddles set by Princess Turnadot.
His rendition of Nessun dorma (None shall sleep) in Act 3, one of the most famous tenor arias of all time, is spine-tingling with its beautiful phrasing and nuances.
Turandot is a romantic Italian melodrama, fulfilling the same function as dramatic TV shows and movies do today.
Set in ancient Peking, both the story and music of Turandot reflect Puccini’s fascination with the exotic East.
The story opens with a proclamation being read outside the walls of the Imperial Palace stating that Princess Turandot (the ‘ice queen’, played by American soprano Jennifer Wilson) will marry the first man of royal blood to solve three riddles set by her.
Any suitor who fails will be beheaded.
After 13 try and fail to solve the riddles (and die as a result), an unknown suitor (Calaf) succeeds.
The great Zubin Mehta conducts this production with the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, an orchestra that was formed in 2006 to be the resident orchestra in the new opera house, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia.
Puccini scored a very large orchestra for this work, including 13 Chinese gongs. Lush textures, sensual melodies and dramatic gestures mark this wonderful performance, with the brass being a standout.
The exotic pageantry of this work requires large crowd scenes and big choruses, and the Chorus, Cor de al Generalitat Valenciana, pulls them off superbly.
The soprano who created the role of Turandot in Puccini’s final, unfinished masterpiece, Rosa Raisa, described the premiere performance to a biographer: “It was an electrified atmosphere, with the greatest musicians and critics in the world gathered for this world premiere and listening religiously to Puccini’s last creation. At the end of the Third Act [first scene], while the dead Liù is accompanied by Timur, with Ping, Pang and Pong following, and as the chorus continues to intone the motif of the last aria that she sang, until the whole stage is emptied, Toscanini laid down his baton, and in a voice choking with emotion announced that this is where Puccini left off: ‘Here is where the maestro died.’”
Turandot is performed regularly in Australia.
Meldi Arkinstall, CD-Meldi’s Music Reviews, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015