Turandot - Royal Opera House, 9 September 2013
If you want a starry opening night spectacle, go to New York or Milan. The Covent Garden season began on Monday on, as always, a more subdued note. This year's patchily-cast routine revival was Turandot.
It does have a couple of things going for it. One, Andrei Serban's production, still arresting after nearly thirty years, Imperial China brutally reduced to its stylish and stylised essentials. Two, the equally stylish Lise Lindstrom, whose handsome voice cleaved the air like a steel weapon. Those who love to moan about Covent Garden's casting choices can have no complaint here. Lindstrom is the finest Turandot around, seemingly made for the role of the ice-hearted princess, and we are lucky to have her in London.
Less impressive was her Calaf, Marco Berti, a girthsome belter in the traditional Italian mould. He produced the notes with such ease, volume and flair that the lack of textual nuance could almost be overlooked. His unwillingness to even attempt any acting was harder to excuse. Eri Nakamura, vastly improved by her stint in the Bavarian State Opera ensemble, made an appealing Liù.
The three masks, Dionysios Sourbis, David Butt Philip and Doug Jones, were individually fine, but seemed ill-matched in timbre and dynamics - or was that just lack of rehearsal? There was a sense elsewhere too of singers bringing 'their' Turandot rather than a cohesive cast.
The biggest disappointment was Henrik Nánási's limp conducting. His interpretation was certainly musicianly and thorough, bringing out the strange modernist textures of Puccini's most innovative score, illuminating its abrasive details.
But a live theatrical production demands more. More blood, more passion, more drama. The do-or-die riddle scene should have you on the edge of your seat. But if I hadn't been standing, I would have fallen asleep. The always-active, never-intrusive dancers and chorus did much to distract from the musical shortcomings but ultimately it felt like a long evening.
Here (with thanks to Kyoko) is the dress rehearsal curtain call: