Metropolitan Opera 2015-16 Preview: Nina Stemme Takes on Puccini's 'Turandot'; Marcelo Alvarez Also Stars
The Metropolitan Opera will reprise its monumental production of Puccini's "Turandot" with no less than four sopranos singing the title role.
Puccini's beloved score returns after a two-year absence at the Met. Puccini never completed the score to the opera but it has become incredibly popular particularly for its signature aria "Nessun Dorma," which Luciano Pavarotti made famous with his outdoor concerts.
The opera is particularly recognized for its demanding soprano role, which expands up to a high C and down to the lowest notes for a dramatic soprano. The orchestrations are also incredibly heavy, which makes the role even trickier.
Puccini's score uses Western cliches of oriental music to immerse the audience in China, the world of the opera. The score also features an astounding and innovative use of chorus and orchestra but it still maintains Puccini's appealing melodies, which made the composer famous.
However, the opera is criticized since it was never completed by Puccini himself. The composer died before the completion of the work leaving the crucial final scene unfinished. Franco Alfano wrote the ending based on the manuscripts left by Puccini. However, it is criticized for being overly bombastic.
Luciano Berio later wrote another ending in 2002. However, that ending has not been used as prominently and has not been embraced worldwide. It was recently used in the new Teatro alla Scala production and in 2002 at the Salzburg Festival. The main issue with this version is that Berio experiments with harmonic modes that Puccini would never have explored for the work.
The Met has presented "Turandot" 296 times. The work first played at the Met in 1926 and was kept in the repertoire until 1930. In 1961 the opera returned with one of the most impressive casts. The cast included Birgit Nilsson, one of the most important Turandot interpreters of her generation, Franco Correlli and Anna Moffo. Since then the opera has been maintained in the repertoire and has seen many singers including Martina Arroyo, James McCracken, Mirella Freni, Aprile Millo, Gabriella Tucci and Placido Domingo take on the roles of Calaf and Liu. Among the famous Turandot's that have taken the Met stage are Ghena Dimitrova, Gwyneth Jones and Eva Marton.
The current Met production by Franco Zeffirelli premiered in 1987 and is among the most beloved in the company. When it opened in 1987, Eva Marton took on the title role while Placido Domingo sang Calaf. Leona Mitchell was Liu while Paul Plishka took on Timur. The cast was recorded on TV and is currently available on DVD.
The production has been criticized for being over the top and too crowded but its luxurious recreations of Chinese castles is what attracts most audiences today.
The production has seen many great Turandots including Jones and Dimitrova. However, most recently Maria Guleghina took on the task and scored a huge triumph. Others who have sung the production include the late Salvatore Licitra, Marina Poplavskaya in her Met debut and Hibla Gerzmava.
This season the Met will have four Turandots including Christine Goerke, who will perform the first run. The soprano recently scored a huge triumph at the Met and is now slated to be the company's next Brunhilde in the Met's Ring Cycle.
Lise Lindstrom and Jennifer Wilson will also alternate in the second run. However, in January, the Met will have the pleasure of hearing Nina Stemme sing the title role for the first time with the company. Stemme is among the most sought after sopranos in the industry and she has not sung with the company since 2010. The Swedish soprano recently took on the role of Turandot and has already performed it in Milan and will also sing it at Zurich and Munich.
As Liu Hibla Gerzmava will reprise her acclaimed interpretation that she first brought to the Met in 2012. The Russian soprano has since become a popular star with the company.
Leah Crocetto will sing the second run while Anita Hartig will bring her own interpretation. Hartig made her debut in 2014 and since then the Met has given her a huge push giving her lead roles in "Carmen," and "La Boheme."
Popular Argentine tenor Marcelo Alvarez will add the role of Calaf to his Met repertoire. Ever since transitioning from a lyric tenor to a dramatic tenor, the singer has headlined new productions and HD performances for the company. While he will not be featured in the Met's HD this year, he will be the tenor for the first run. Fabio Sartori and Marco Berti will also alternate the second and third run.
James Morris, Hao Jiang Tian and Alexander Tsymbalyuk will alternate the role of Timur.
Italian conductor Paolo Carignani will conduct all 16 performances with the Jan. 30 being transmitted live in HD.
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