Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Tortured Turandot

Marina Poplavskaya stole the show as Liu at the Met last night, and Maria Guleghina showed us--sadly, once again--that piercing, high pitched shrieking maketh not a Turandot.

If you know the opera, you'd probably concede that the principal roles are among those nearly 'impossible to fill'----the memorable arias from Turandot (Nessun dorma, In questa reggia, etc.) have been sung and recorded by all the 'greats'. So we opera types are always making mental comparisons, while too often listening with half an ear. As I watched Guleghina and Giordani run through their paces last night, my first Turandot, Jane Eaglen, rang in my head. And Domingo and Pavarotti as Calaf. Are my standards and expectations unrealistic? Perhaps.

In addition to some unpleasant vocal qualities, Maria and Marcelo had zero on-stage chemistry. And that first kiss!! Ugh.

As is often the case, the secondary roles in the opera are more fun to sing, and are always performed by accomplished singers, some of lesser reputation, except for the Met's beloved Samuel Ramey as Timur---is there a way we can clone him now to ensure a lifetime supply?? And, as his daughter Liu, the Russian Poplavskaya gave us a complete musical and emotional experience and was rewarded with loud enthusiastic brava's and applause at curtain call vs. the audience's decisively less enthusiastic reception for Guleghina.

Hats off to the hunk o' the night, Sasha Semin, who, as the Prince of Persia, makes an all-too-brief appearance on the path to his own execution. He didn't utter a word, but who cares?

I arrived not wanting to like the Zeffirelli production (now 20+ years old) anymore, and I admit to having felt deflated when the curtain rose on Act I. But it's just too grand to not have felt taken in and overwhelmed by this production design, and when the lights come up on the magnificent imperial palace in the middle of Act II, I confess to shivers up my spine and hairs on end. Despite its age, the WOW! factor still moves and impresses. The set may not have improved with age, as a fine wine, but it doesn't matter---each time we meet feels like the 'first' time, so maybe it just doesn't get any better than that.


  1. I saw Turandot last night and loved it. I am not an avid opera-goer but we saw Lise Lindstrom singing Turandot and I thought she was wonderful, as ice queens go. I agree that the color and passion that Marina Poplavskaya brought to the stage was worth the price of admission as was the set. Wow! I'm with you re: Sasha Semin. He was the only reason I brough the opera glasses to my eyes. Is there more about him? The only thing I can find about Sasha Semin is for a Russian hockey player? This can't be the same guy, right (even though the hockey player is equally as adorable!)

  2. Can't help you re Sasha Semin but let me know if your research proves fruitful. Perhaps a call to the Met might help.... flowers at the stage door can sometimes be a winning formula as well. Keep us posted....