Turandot is an elusive work, with a thousand facets and this ambiguity is increased by the fact that the author could not complete the work leaving the doors open to the most varied conjectures on how Puccini, tormented by his terrible evil, but also by the doubts that plagued him about the final duet, would have solved the final dissolution from a musical and dramatic point of view. It should be added that the action takes place in Beijing "at the time of fairy tales", which expands the indeterminacy and leaves the interpreters a wide range of possible choices.
The director Fabio Cherstich together with the collective AES + F (Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fidkes), who turns his interest in particular to photography, video and digital technologies, started from a plausible assumption, given the characteristics of Turandot,with the possibility of intriguing implications. That is, it is decided to set the action in a technological and robotic future, in a China dominated by a princess who has established absolute power in the form of matriarchy, disempowering the Emperor (reduced to a larva and kept alive artificially) and who is blindly idolized by the people. The terrible woman associated the memory of the ancestor Lo-u-Ling, brutalized and raped long before, a trauma that she has evidently suffered and that has led her to mature a deep hatred towards the male gender, giving way to that kind of bloody Rischiatutto combined with the conquest of her hand.
But in the realization of the project, already presented in Palermo last January(see review),not everything convinces and it is above all the theatrical step to be lacking. The scene is spartan and consists in practice of two side stairs on which the choir stands (when there is), almost immovable. Then there are three large screens (plus a fourth that can go down from top to front) that fill the stage in width and height. On these flow continuously flawless videos from a technical point of view, which at first capture the attention with the swarming of a futuristic, disturbing, colorful city; a sky furrowed by flying machines among which stands out a huge red dragon recalls the iconography of ancient China and will turn out to be the palace of Turandot. Here we find eight men in underwear of various ages, the pretenders to the love of the princess; but those same men also give their appearance to the rapist males who appear during the story of the protagonist in the second act (In this palace). The prisoners are dangerously lapped by disturbing sprawling beings and it is understood that they will not end well. From this moment on, the images follow one another uninterruptedly, sometimes attractive, often repetitive, almost always distracting from the music and from what happens on stage; where in truth it happens very little, the scenic action limiting itself to the well-known gestures of the soloists, left to themselves and badly lit, to the immobility of the choir and to some walk of hooded extras equipped with greenish LEDs that at the death of Liù will turn out to be swords. Only at the end, when the happy end is about to come true, the hooded get rid of their clothes by lying happily on the steps, while on the screens explodes a riot of flowers and amorous gestures between the former rapists (and spasimanti of the princess) and their former victims. I did not understand the meaning, in the end, of the huge cat with the face and breast of a woman caressed by everyone while rolling sensually and of the little girl, also in her underwear, who does so much Carnival of Viareggio. But the biggest problem is that the images (excellently realized and sometimes intriguing) and the music travel two parallel paths that almost never meet, creating an alienating effect rarely in tune with the work.
Fortunately, things are better from a musical point of view. Valerio Galli is a director that I could define as old-fashioned. In the sense that it does not seem in the least tempted to offer us a Puccini in Straussian sauce, Debussy or other, but it proves to be strongly rooted in the best Italian tradition, far from any calligraphy, exhaustion, mannerism or expressionist contamination. The score is also purified from the Puccini of manner, from sentimentality, from the heart effect in hand. It is a sober, solid, incisive direction, which knows how to show tender sensitivity or give lunar rarefactions if necessary, but always within an all-Italian taste and sensitivity. Then Galli, a rare avis, loves voices, follows them, supports them competently and knows how to get the best out of singers with different vocal, technical and expressive characteristics.
With regard to the soloists, the Tuscan master finds particularly fertile ground in Mariangela Sicilia,Liù with a fragrant and soft voice, able to alternate impulses and retreats with great naturalness. The game of dynamics is of high school, particularly appreciable in Tanto amore segreto, where the Calabrian soprano probably reaches the top of her interpretation, which subtracts the character from the most obvious clichés making the young slave a woman in love but determined and far from fragile in her unconditional dedication. Less singular is the other nurse (because such is the connotation that the current staging gives to Liù), Francesca Sassu,staged on May 29, overall appreciable, but from which one would like a greater sweetness of emission.
Gregory Kunde returns to Bologna after the triumphant concert of a couple of weeks ago(see review)and imposes himself again for the shine and the ring, especially in the high register. He naturally chooses the high-pitched viariante to Ti voglio ardente d'amor! (something that the colleague of the alternative cast does not do) giving a do 4 surprising for ease, expansion, glow of sound and dominates the role with confidence and even swagger. Compared to the evening at the Teatro Manzoni, in the center the stamp appears slightly more oxidized, perhaps because of the choice of wanting to conquer the role in the white heat, as an intrepid guerrilla in line with the stage costume (boots and camouflage). The colleague of May 29, Antonello Palombi,is a solid Calaf, with less personality than Kunde but all in all efficient. He strives to color the phrasing and reaches the treble without causing patemi of soul. I would ask him to avoid those small ascending bearings of which he fills the role, perhaps to propitiate the arrival notes, but it is a habit that the tenor could avoid very well.
Hui He decided to debut in the title role and I don't know if it was a wise choice. Hers is a full lyrical voice, of beautiful color and good capacity for expansion, which can happily face even roles as a driven lyric soprano such as Aida or Tosca. The temperament is rather placid and particularly suitable for figures in which a submissive or defeated woman character can emerge. In addition, the acute register, if put under pressure by particularly difficult textures, sometimes presents tensions with some notes not perfectly centered. This is the case with this test. Turandot can also be depicted as a woman with a dark evil, pink by an internal woodworm, but as long as she manages to dominate the impervious writing that requires soaring voices, very safe at the top. The Chinese soprano, despite some happy moments, does not convince completely, even if she is a warm success. Ana Lucrecia García (May 29), vice versa is a rather monolithic Turandot and with a timbre not kissed by God, but very sonorous and sure. He solves the most difficult passages with a certain ease and only towards the end of the duet of the third act he accuses a moment of fatigue.
Ing-Sung Sim (May 28), dressed as a Middle Eastern general, is a fine Timur, while Alessandro Abis has less vocal appeal but gets away with dignity.
As for the Ministers, dressed in red and equipped with a briefcase with computers, the two Pings are both of good importance(Vincenzo Taormina,May 28, and Sergio Vitale,alternative cast) and in the depiction of Pang and Pong the two elements of the first cast(Francesco Marsiglia and Cristiano Olivieri)are superior, compared to Orlando Polidoro and Pietro Picone (May 29), less precise and incisive.
Authoritative Bruno Lazzaretti and Nicolò Ceriani,respectively Altoum and Mandarino in both performances.
The cast was adequately completed for May 28 by Massimiliano Brusco (Prince of Persia), Silvia Calzavara (First Handmaid) and Rosa Guarracino (Second Handmaid), for May 29 Andrea Taboga (Prince of Persia), Lucia Viviana (First Handmaid) and Marie-Luce Erard (Second Handmaid).