Foto: Teatro Carlo Felice
Once upon a time, there was a princess, beautiful and cold as ice who had invented a stratagem for not getting married: She defied every suitor to resolve three enigmas, otherwise he’d lose his head instead of winning her hand. Many princes had already died for the beautiful Turandot, when an unknown prince arrived, who fell so deeply in love with her that he managed to resolve the three riddles. The princess, however would not yield to him. So the prince defied her to resolve in her turn his riddle and to find out his name until daybreak. Otherwise he would die by his own hand. Day came and she had not found out his name, but instead of accepting his life, she finally accepted his love. This is what the first sources tell us of the story. Puccini and his librettists have added the character of Liù, a young slave girl who takes care of the prince’s father. She has always been secretly in love with the prince, and such is her love that she prefers to affront torture and death rather than give up his name. She is a typical heroine of Puccini’s, whose female protagonists almost always come to a tragical end. In Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice de Gênes, this story was told us tonight in a sumptuous staging, true to the libretto and historical, by Giuliano Montaldo. One set was sufficient for the three acts: two podiums flanked by two sets of stairs, a few columns, everything in subdued bronze violet colors. A few gongs here and there and the background was set: we were in a classical and mythical China. With costumes just as beautiful, defining clearly the role and rank of everyone on stage, the stage direction was musical and clear: the dynamics of Act I for instance, with a group of fantastic sword dancers underlining the drama of the scene, in which the music recreates the collective hysterics of execution days, were breathtaking. The stage direction was very singer-friendly: no complicated searching for any deeper truths in the story that would have required complicated stage movements or particularly refined acting skills. Trust was with the music and the singers. A pity that these were not all quite up to the challenge: Rudy Park especially, in the role of Calaf, was a bit disappointing. Gifted with a big clear voice and perfect technique, he seemed to be complacent in his vocal power and to lack in expression sometimes. Norma Fantini as Turandot was haughty and cruel, but her voice came over as somewhat shrill in the beginning. It was during the final scene that she was vocally as convincing as acting-wise. The highlight of the evening was Serena Gamberoni as Liù. With a round and full sweet voice, and perfect intonation, she totally nailed this young woman who is filled and moved by true love to much acclaim by the public. A trio of beautiful voices - Ping, Vincenzo Taormina, Pang, Blagoj Nacoski, Pong, Marcello Nardis - makes the interventions of these characters, which would have bordered on the boring otherwise, rather diverting. The orchestra of the Teatro Carlo Felice, conducted by Alvise Castelli, was splendid, nuanced and full of energy, just like the theater’s wonderful choirs. An entertaining evening, all in all, and we left the theatre with a head full of melodies, and some questions as well: and if the final, this dramatic duel, when Calaf persuades finally Turandot to love him, were nothing else than a well-disguised apology of rape? Isn’t his love, that expresses itself mostly by „I want her!“, more something of a base sexual desire? How many love-stories do we know that might be to reconsider under this light? But, what IS love? Or is Puccini the most misogynist of all opera composers?