Thursday, November 26, 2009

MET HD Turandot an historic spectacle given new life

by Dwight Casimere

Nearly two million people have seen the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series of live broadcasts from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The transmissions have won the coveted Peabody and Emmy awards and have been a crowning achievement in the careers of Director Gary Halvorson and Met General Manager and MET HD Executive Producer Peter Gelb.

An Encore presentation of the November 7 live transmission of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot was presented on a thousand screens around the country, including Cinemark, Seven Bridges in Woodridge and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville on November 18. The next Live in HD transmission is Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffman), Saturday, December 19 at noon.

The Met’s November 7the performance was a tribute to both youthful debuts and veteran performances. 31 year old Conductor Andris Nelsons, principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera orchestra, was in his Met debut. Bass Samuel Ramey, who recently celebrated 25 years at the Met and 80-year tenor, Charles Anthony (whose real name, incidentally, is that of another Met great, Caruso), has appeared in nearly 3,000 roles on the Met stage since 1954.

Ukrainian soprano Maria Guleghina is the vengeful Turandot; in her first Met performance of the role and Italian tenor Marcello Giordani is her mysterious suitor Calaf.

Turandot is one of the Met’s grandest spectacles and the multi-camera treatment, although marred by a few inexplicable audio blips, gave it first-class treatment.

Guleghina is electrifying as the icy, treacherous Turandot, who delights in decapitating her young royal suitors who fail to solve her riddles in exchange for her hand. Calaf is the mysterious stranger who willingly offers his life for the hand of Turandot. In his famous aria, Nessun dorma (no one sleeps), Calaf declares he will ultimately be victorious in winning Turandot’s hand by proving the awesome power of love and its ability to melt even the most icy resolve, especially that of Turandot.

“Puccini really makes it hard on the tenor because his biggest aria comes in the last act,” Giordani told backstage interviewer and Met soprano Patricia Racette. “But, you steal the show,” Guleghina interrupted. “So, perhaps Puccini knew what he was doing!” Giordani countered with a sly smile.

Backstage, Charles Anthony (Caruso) spoke with Racette about his varied career. “I appeared as a servant in the production of Un Ballo in Mascera, in which Marian Anderson became the first black person to perform in a Metropolitan Opera production (in 1955). He was also in the production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the double debut of the great Franco Corelli and Leontyne Price in 1961.

Samuel Ramey displayed his uncanny dramatic powers as the blind Timur, Calaf’s father. His sensitive portrayal was undermined at times by a troublesome wobble in his voice and the mysterious disappearance of vocal tone at the ends of lengthy phrases.

The thrilling conclusion of Turandot, with its grand crescendo and sweeping panorama of the sets and costumes caused tears to stream down the cheeks of more than one audience member at the Live in HD recent screening. For more information on upcoming MET HD transmissions, visit www.metopera,.org or

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