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Giacomo Puccini: Turandot [Opera Australia] Blu-ray Review

puccini-turandot-opera-australia-blu-ray-cover

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Korean
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Running Time: 185 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Opera Australia
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 26, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

 

The Performance

[Rating:4.5/5]

Giacomo Puccini did not live long enough to see Turandot, his final opera, performed on stage.  More is the pity since this is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century in both its visual and sound aspects. Puccini had one prior trip to the Orient with Madama Butterfly but the musical language of this work is at entirely different level. Opera Australia is known for its innovative productions of standard works, and this one is no exception. The 2012 production, directed by Graeme Murphy, goes back to the old Chinese opera makeup and costumes in keeping with the origin of this legendary story.

Calaf (Rosario La Spina) is an exiled prince of Tartary and, by chance, finds his father, the blind king Timur (Jud Arthur) and the slave girl Liu (Hyseseoung Kwan) in Peking. Here the main event is the pursuit of Princess Turandot (Susan Foster) who will only accept in marriage a man capable of solving her three riddles. To date, all have failed at the cost of their heads. Calaf accepts the challenge against the advice of the ministers Ping (Andrew Moran), Pang (Graeme Macfarlane) and Pong (David Corcoran).  Even, Altoum the ancient Emperor of China (Benjamin Rashee), cannot dissuade Calaf from his pursuit.  Turandot, a cold haughty woman reveals her hatred of men by retelling the story of her ancestor who was dishonored and killed by a foreign prince. She then poses the riddles all of which Calaf solves. Rather than hold Turandot to the bargain, Calaf gives her a way out: if she can discover his name before dawn, he will surrender his head. Timur and Liu are captured by the guards and to prevent Calaf’s betrayal, Liu kills herself. As the opera closes, Turandot reveals Calaf’s real name: it is “Amor” (love).

This is one of the biggest operas to stage in the standard repertoire and, in this respect, Opera Australia does not disappoint. The musical direction under the baton of Andrea Licata, a veteran of this repertoire, is well paced.  The cast consists of mostly local singers who are well prepared and deliver very satisfying performances.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

All of the Opera Australia productions that I have been privileged to review have had spectacular visuals and this one certainly fills that bill. Colors are spectacular and close-up detail (of which there is plenty) is superb. The images are palpable and as good as it gets in the BD world.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Big sound is the order of the day with Turandot and this is provided in spades. The ambience and sense of the venues is outstanding with crystal clear production of the voices. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is sensational, leagues better than the two-channel one.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1.5/5]


A deluxe booklet with great photos, synopsis and background is offset with the meager offering of a cast gallery.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]


It is difficult to be objective about an opera that is one of my biggest “guilty” pleasures. The visual standard set by the Metropolitan Opera’s ginormous Franco Zeffirelli production is very hard to beat. Wisely, this smaller scale version does not attempt to compete on that level. This production’s telling points are scored by terrific ensemble performances from leading through supporting roles and the directorial decision to incorporate elements of the Chinese Opera tradition. Taken individually, none of the principals will displace my personal favorites that include the Calaf of Franco Corelli, the Turandot of Birgit Nilsson or the Liu of Renata Tebaldi. That aside, this Turandot comes across on the small screen as well as any that I have seen. It has integrity and honesty, great visuals and superb sound recording. Invoking my wife’s ultimate criterion for a successful Turandot, it comes down to the big aria Nessun Dorma. Happy to report that tenor La Spina, easily the burliest Calaf that I have yet seen, delivers the goods and sends the requisite shivers down the spine. American soprano Foster gives us a more scaled down spinto portrayal of the title role than some that I have witnessed but, within the context of the whole, it makes Turandot a more sympathetic character. In the Blu-ray world, there are two current competitors: the Met Opera’s production with Maria Guleghina and Marcelo Giordani, and the Arena di Verona’s staging also with Guleghina and the late Salvatore Licitra. Not only can this Australian one hold its own, but in many respects, presents a refreshing take on this 20th century masterpiece. All things considered, this is a BD that I can recommend with unqualified enthusiasm.

Additional Screen Captures

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Turandot (Opera Australia) - Blu-ray Disc

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BestBuy.com:
Turandot (Opera Australia) - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Turandot (Opera Australia) on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles on Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

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