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Puccini Turandot

Opera Australia, Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne


Ealynn Voss, Amanda Thane, Kenneth Collins, Donald Shanks
The Australian Opera Chorus / State Orchestra of Victoria / Carlo Felice Cillario
Director Grahame Murphy

Opus Arte Faveo DVD OA F4004 D [1991/2006 4:3 126 mins]


Faveo is the new bargain DVD label of Opus Arte, launched this month with four Australian offerings first seen on TV, so the first batch are all 4:3 picture format, which may put off some buyers, but they'd be missing out.

The cases are white and uncluttered. For the older opera videos visual quality is a little variable, but generally adequate. Sound values are good. Mostly there are subtitles in English. The inset information with some others of them is minimal. For full casts, you may have to watch on screen.

This Turandot is extraordinary, and is now being talked of as an 'iconic' production. Turandot is an opera that has problems for me, but continues to fascinate despite. I am usually troubled by its leasurely pacing and repetitiveness of some of the key melodies. But all that is laid to rest at a stroke in Melbourne, the secret being the quite extraordinary visual impact of the staging, which holds our attention with its spectacular lighting, costumes and production by Grahame Murphy and his team.

Ritual dominates, and within it the human drama is played out movingly. Perhaps the most original and touching element of the whole opera is the bitter-sweet scenes for the three functionaries of this blood drenched Peking - Ping, Pang & Pong (pictured above) - who moan about their unrewarding job and long to return to the quiet country life as it used to be; they are choreographed unforgettably.

The grand picture of the death-obsessed populace under the thrall of the ice Princess is magnificent, as in our still illustration*, or in the swirling movements on stage. Ealynn Voss sings the title role well; not completely without strain in the second act, but I think this is intrinsic to the role. Kenneth Collins convinces as Calaf, who risks all first by tackling the riddles, then by staking his life upon his name; I'm not sure his Nessun dorma is that inferior to the Pavarotti version which must hve earned multi-thousand £s? Amanda Thane's sacrificial aria Tu che di gel (such ice will be vanquished) is as moving as should be before Liu grabs the executioner's dagger to stab herself.

The final scene (in Alfano's completion) is amazing, extremely beautiful and with both stars in glorious exultant voice; no antic-climax as can happen with this unfinished Whether or not you have the Salzburg, Beijing and/or San Francisco DVDs of Turandot, you should add this one to your collection.



*(See also Opus Arte's video clip. The Opus Arte webpage indicates TERRITORY EXCLUSIONS: AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, NORTH AMERICA , but they tell me that it will be released by ABC in those areas in due course.)


The 1990 production by Graeme Murphy is brimful of imagination, shirking none of the horrors, but masking them in settings of such sumptuous oriental opulence that the sorry saga takes on an epic quality of terrifying intensity (Music & Vision)


Riddles Photo - Branco Gaica

© Peter Grahame Woolf