Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 09/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for the ultimate studio recording of Puccini's Turandot, look no further. Every opera lover and Puccini fan will not want to be without this miracle of an album. Recorded between 1965-1966, the album was digitally remastered to high quality perfection. The cast is a dream come true - Birgit Nilsson as the Empress Turandot, Franco Corelli as Prince Calaf, a young Renata Scotto as Liu and in the minor role of Pong is Piero De Palma. At this time, all the singers in the principal roles were in excellent shape and enjoying immense success as opera gods of their day. Franco Corelli is considered one of the 20th century's finest tenors, right up there with Enrico Caruso, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavoratti. Corelli had an incredibly dynamic tenor voice, which was used for acting with consummate skill in all of his roles. He was usually paired with Renata Tebaldi and together they performed in the greatest of Italian operas. Corelli as Calaf is the definition of the role. He is romantic, intense, passionate, fighting with all his might against the cold and powerful Turandot, finally conquering her with his love. I have always enjoyed Placido Domingo in the role, and he is to be found in a top-notch production at the Metropolitan Opera with set design by Franco Zefferelli, in which Eva Marton sings Turandot. That is visually the best stage production of Turandot.
Birgit Nilsson was above all a Wagnerian soprano. She made all the great Wagner heroines come to life with great realism and technical perfection - Brunhilde and Isolde are her greatest roles. Nevertheless, being an artist, she expanded her repertoire away from Wagner and into the one heavy role of Empress Turandot. She has no problem singing in Italian, and as the Ice Princess she is believably cold, arrogant, powerful, goddess-like. On stage, she was considered the greatest Turandot of her day. Coincidentally, at the time of this recording, she was quite busy undertaking various projects, among them Brunhilde in Karl Bohm's album of Der Ring Des Nibelungen. Turandot is a powerful diva role, calling for solid and soaring high notes, a dramatic and forceful inflection and a transformation in the end. When she is kissed by Calaf, she is tamed and suddenly a changed woman in love, with a generous nature and with no bloodlust of which she suffered before. I like to think the role ought to be played as if she is under a spell until the spell is broken at the end through Calaf's kiss. Under her spell, she is consumed with rage and vengeance against all men, especially for foreigners such as the ones who killed her much revered ancestor Empress Lo-u-Ling. Nilsson sings the story in the definitive version of the aria "In Questa Reggia". Franco Corelli, a sexy pre-Placido Domingo type, is quite noble in the famous aria which has become the signature and ambition for all tenors- "Nessun Dorma". This is it. The studio recording album that beats all others. I highly recommend it."
Mark | United States | 02/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This features an extraordinary recording of Turandot...one of the best available.All the interpreters are at their prime.
Scotto is a very fragile Liu singing beautifully and emotionally.Corelli is outstanding!! This is surely one of his best recordings. Nillson will always remain the Turandot of reference. She is really a princess of Ice at 1st and then melts in the last scene...amazing!!About the EMI release...I was extremely disappointed. Be sure to own your libretto before buying this CD otherwise you will only get an italian libretto with no translations. However, each act is divided into so many tracks so that you can choose any part of the recording...for everybody's conveniance.Overall...despite libretto problems...This recording Is A MUST...and not only to Nillson and Corelli's fans."
The Turandot For All Time
Rudy Avila | 01/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own this recording of Turandot after having been exposed to the opera through a live performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I am so amazed !! My jaw dropped after hearing the whole performance on two cd's!! This recording is truly sensational! It's really incredible, the definitive version, a Turandot that takes the crown as the greatest interpretation on record. Sadly for opera-lovers, this album is underrated. Most go for Maria Callas edition (inevitably) Joan Sutherland or Montserrat Caballe. Another review mentioned Eva Marton as Turandot in a live performance at the Met when she sang opposite Placido Domingo in a Franco Zefferelli production. While all these have their own value and allure, this one takes home the trophy. Birgit Nilsson was born to sing the role of Turandot. It seems as if the music for the character was written for her alone. She has all the right stuff. Her portrayal is icy, distant, imperious, powerful, intense and finally as she is "conquered" by love, deeply human, warm and loving. She never loses a feminine, girlish sensitivity and vulnerability even as she remains cold and defiant before she is won over by Calaf's love. This is exactly how Turandot ought to be sung. One reviewer said "she's under a spell which is broken with Calaf's kiss". This is a very accurate portrayal and Birgit Nilsson delivers this with dramatic conviction. She is the greatest Turandot ever to grace the stage.
At the Met, in the mid 60's, she was the reigning interpretor of Turandot. She sang opposite dramatic tenor Franco Corelli in productions which became legendary and were always sold out. This recording provides us with a glimpse of what it must have been like at that point in time. Corelli and Nilsson are the power behind this splendid album. They are electrifying, especially in the Riddle Scene and in the Finale. Dramatically, they are singing AGAINST each other in the Riddle Scene (Corelli portrays Calaf as a virile and ambitious man fighting to win her love while Turandot fights to keep him away, fighting temptation with an iron will). In the finale, they sing TOGETHER in a true Puccini love duet because love has conquered all. The dynamic duo of Franco Corelli and Birgit Nilsson should set the bar high for singers tackling these roles today. A tenor singing as Calaf and a soprano as Turandot are up for a big challenge. They are among opera's most difficult parts. The voice must be very high and loud, Wagnerian even, to cut through the big orchestral music and to climax powerfully in various scenes. This album has been digitally remastered from the old LP and is clean, smooth and powerful. Pradelli conducts with high excellence, evoking Puccini's mythical, imperial ancient China with atmospheric and lush melody.
Make no mistake. This is the best Turandot commercially available. A brief and powerful musical phrase opens on a town square in ancient Peking (Popoli Di Peking)..as a herald sung by a sonorous bass announces that Turandot will marry the man who answers three riddles. The Prince of Persia tried and failed and is to be executed. Calaf, an exiled Prince, and his father and servant girl Liu are among the crowds (Padre Mio Padre) and Calaf at firsts loathes the seemingly evil Empress Turandot who is so heartless in her command of life and death. But he falls madly in love with her when he sees her in person. Now he is determined to answer the riddles and claim Turandot as his bride. Franco Corelli was a devilishly handsome tenor with a gorgeous voice, capable of a broad palette of tones- romantic, seductive, powerful, intense and soft, loving and pure. He was a tenor's tenor. Very few tenors today match his talents. Immediately after his career, only Placido Domingo successfully filled his shoes in some ways. Birgit Nilsson particularily shines in the Riddle Scene "In Questa Reggia" and "Straniero! Ascolta!" but she comes a long way in a short time from dominant to subdued by the time she sings "E su nome Amor!" at the end of the opera. "And his name is love!" having fallen for the first time in love, which redeems her, breaks the spell and humanizes her.
Critics seem to snub Renata Scotto in this performance. What about Scotto ? Wow. She nailed the role of the tragic and lovesick slave girl with lyrical beauty and heartbreaking pathos. She is LIU as she was meant to be sung and portrayed. In Liu, Puccini meant to harken back to his earlier creation Madame Butterfly. Her arias are pretty much the same style as Butterfly. Though Liu has alawys been considered a minor supporting role, I think that she is the quiet but awesome power that drives the opera. Her death is the turning point and for Puccini, even the climax of the opera. He wrote her Suicide Scene when he himself died. Renata Scotto does justice to the role. Liu is best sung by light, lyrical or spinto voices. Among the better Lius have also included Beverly Sills who during one performance even stole the show even when the great Birgit Nilsson was singing Turandot in the same cast. "
Kenneth Scicluna | Malta | 08/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If one has to ask me to mention one of the greatest tenors ever, Franco Corelli would be on top of the list. And this should be one of the greatest ever recordings which were fortunately registered and passed down to us and with very good sound even. Calaf should be one of the greatest roles which Corelli sung on stage maybe only equalled by the role of Manrico in Il Trovatore, and this recording captures the animal-stamina well known from this fabulous singer. The cast who accompanies him is none the less. Renata Scotto is at her best as the slave-girl Liu' giving a very sensitive performance whilst Birgit Nilsson gives a heroic rendering in the role of the icy Princess Turnandot. Obviously one cannot not mention the great Puccini, for whom generations of opera lovers should be indebted for the ceative power and energy along with immortal melodies only he could give us - and definitely Turandot should be one of his colossal achievements which put great pressure on opera singers.
For me this recording is one of the most important historically - the cast is top noch and even the reading of Francesco Molinari-Pradelli is a one of the best I heard on record. EMI has managed to give us a good sound - well balanced and clear for this 1966 recording. Definitely with Corelli as Calaf divine as ever, it should be a must for all Opera lovers."