[Met Tour] CID:94380

American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, November 30, 1926

Review 1:

Review in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin


'Turandot' Given Philadelphia Première by Metropolitan Co.

Following the American premiere in New York on November 16, "Turandot," the last operatic work of Giacomo Puccini, was presented by the Metropolitan Company at the Academy of Music last evening. It is not the Puccini of "La Bohème" and "Madama Butterfly" that is revealed in the tremendous score which illuminates the story founded upon fairy lore, adapted by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, for, while there are fleeting echoes of the composer of those works of firmly established popularity - and perhaps at times even more forcibly of the dramatic "La Tosca" - it is a new Puccini, developing in his later years a wider, fuller and greater scope as Verdi did in his "Otello" and "Falstaff," which one hears with wonder and admiration in this score which he never finished. For the Italian composer died ere the music of "Turandot" was complete, and it was finished by Franco Alfano, who followed the lamented composer's style and completed the work with comparative success. The music is most pretentious, tremendous, even vociferous to the point of loudness as seems to befit the florid improbability of the tale, in which the haughty Princess Turandot, born with an inherited hatred of men and a dread of matrimony, promises to wed him who shall guess three riddles of her propounding, he who aspires and fails losing with the wager the treasure of his life. It is a story well suited to grand opera purposes, and "grand" indeed is the use that Puccini made of it, and magnificent in the extreme, even to an extravagance perhaps never equaled, its lavishness of spectacular splendor.

In the nature of an "Arabian Nights" narrative, the story of "Turandot" has a Chinese locale and characterization and in his music Puccini, at times made use of the Chinese idioms. There are but fleeting glimpses, however, and for the most part the music is loud and overpowering, in orchestration and in its demands upon the singers, particularly the man-hating Princess - sung with much vigor and some tonal beauty by the tireless Maria Jeritza - and the Unknown Prince, a role in which Giacomo Lauri-Volpi proves himself a great dramatic tenor, with a voice that also has lyric charm. Mme. Jertiza was indeed a vision of majestic splendor as she mounted the great flight of stairs toward the towering throne of the Emperor, poised aloft at a perilous height, with his white robes flowing far below. Gorgeously arrayed with resplendently embroidered trains so long and wide that may pages were required to carry them, the Princess first scornfully propounded her riddles, then sought to escape the penalty when the Unknown Prince had solved them, one, two three.

Finally the Prince agrees to release her if she shall guess his name, which only his adoring slave, Liu, knows. Turandot bids her minions make the girl reveal the hidden name, but Liu, though put to the torture, remains true to her master, and, for fear of being compelled to betray him, kills herself. Then comes one of the most beautiful parts of the score, that lament of the people as the body of Liu is lifted and carried away. Real melody is here, pure and appealing - the poetic and sympathetic Puccini who, is said as he wrote those beautiful strains, to have been unable to go on. Here another took up his work and completed it. But before this one hears much that is also beautiful, though little so melodious, for the new tonal stress, at times letting the torch of inspiration slip from his grasp, splendid as his score is, on the whole, and impressive in its effect. The orchestration particularly is rich and colorful and powerful.

The story of "Turandot" is told in three acts and five scenes, the curtain raiser, without overture on the walls of the Great Violet City - Peking - in legendary times, a massive and marvelous picture in the most imaginative and picturesque manner of Jospeh Urban. This scene is surpassed, however, by that depicting the court of the Imperial Palace, the second in both the second and third acts. Here is massive magnificence that makes for amazement, in the aforementioned flight of steps to the Emperor's throne, with the crowds grouped upon the sides of the stairway and below, in a bewildering array of vari-colored costuming. There is also a beautiful scene, a sort of dreamy vista, in the garden of the Palace, where Prince Calaf - for such is his name discovered to be - finally subdues the obdurate Princess with a sudden embrace and passionate kiss though she still spurns him, and not until the final scene does she surrender, declaring that his name is "Love" and falling in his arms, as the people sing a great paean of exultation.

Aside from the splendid interpretations of Mme. Jeritza and Mr. Lauri-Volpi there is some creditable work by Max Altglass, who sings with the shadowy tones of age in the role of the Emperor on his lofty throne, and by Pavel Ludikar, as Timur, a dethroned Tatar King , father of Calaf, whose sorrow over the death of Liu is appealingly depicted. The Liu of Martha Attwood is lovely and graceful, and she sings the difficult music of the part, which lies very high, fluently, though with upper tones which at times seemed rather shrill. A trio of comic characters who seek to give humorous "relief," but who rather are mostly obtrusive and seemingly unnecessary, are Ping, Grand Chancellor; Pang, General Purveyor, and Pong, Chief Cook. They are well done, however, by Giuseppe De Luca, Angelo Bada, and Alfio Tedesco. The chorus work was so fine as to be an outstanding feature of the performance, the many intricate and vociferous ensembles being delivered with fine precision and tonal effect. As for the conducting of Tullio Serafin - who prepared and arranged the music - it was in the well-known brilliant manner of this incomparable musician.

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