[Met Performance] CID:287710

New Production

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, March 12, 1987

Debut : Hugues Cuénod, Roger Koch, Chiang Ching, Dada Saligeri

Turandot (132)
Giacomo Puccini | Giuseppe Adami/Renato Simoni
Eva Marton

Plácido Domingo

Leona Mitchell

Paul Plishka

Brian Schexnayder

Allan Glassman

Anthony Laciura

Emperor Altoum
Hugues Cuénod [Debut]

Arthur Thompson

Prince of Persia
Scott Forrest

Roger Koch [Debut]

Gary Cordial

Joseph Fritz

Christopher Stocker

James Levine

Production/Set Designer
Franco Zeffirelli

Costume Designer
Dada Saligeri [Debut]

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Chiang Ching [Debut]

Turandot received eight performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

Review 1:

Review of Robert Kimball in the New York Post


GIACOMO Puccini's stirring bountifully melodious "Turandot," absent from the Metropolitan Opera since 1975, returned to the Met last night in a big, eye catching, densely- packed, opulent new production staged by the master of monumentality, Franco Zeffirelli. A first night gala audience, which included a wide array of glitterati ranging from Jacqueline Onassis to Donald Trump, sold out the house and had ample time to converse and hobnob during the intermissions of Zeffirelli's stately pageant. It took 42 minutes to complete the [first] night set change between the first two acts - long enough it seemed for Trump to have put up a skating rink on the Met stage. There was one lavish Zeffirelli setting for the second scene of the second act, which takes place in the square in front of the old Peking Palace and the emperor's throne which drew gasps (it was repeated in the last scene of the opera).

This setting was as commodious a stage-filler as one could imagine, decorated with what seemed to be mother-of-pearl, somewhat overcluttered and overly rich in detail. Scenes like this define grand opera for the world at large. In its midst, Eva Marton as the cruel, icy princess Turandot, poured out volcanic tones as she sang her great aria. "In questa Reggia." Anyone who heard Miss Marton kick off the vocal portion of the Met's Centennial Gala in October 1983 with this aria knows how stirringly she can sing it. Placido Domingo was convincing as the riddle-solving Calaf. His iron lungs and strong voice were in good form. His glorious third act aria "Nessun dorma" was decently sung. but in short dramatic bursts rather than in long lyric lines.

Leona Mitchell was Liu, the slave girl who loved Calaf but kills herself rather than betray him. She sang her exquisite Act I entreaty, "signore, Ascolta," with sweet, unforced beauty. Princess Turandot's three ministers, Ping. Pang and Pong, were portrayed ably by Brian Schexnyder, Allan Glassman and Anthony Laciura, respectively. Their delicate, rhapsodic reverie "Ho una casa nell'Honan," is one of the score's dulcet delights. Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod. making his Met debut at age 84, was the old Emperor and Paul Plishka, sang sonorously as Timur.

The Met choristers were outstanding in their many demanding assignments. Met Music director James Levine was in the pit and he shaped the score cohesively with a good blend of power, atmosphere and flow. Only in the ornate second act Imperial Palace scene did the pacing become a shade heavy and grandiloquent, as if Levine were striving to match Zeffirelli. The Met used the Alfano-Toscanini ending. Puccini, of course did not live to finish this, his last opera. The elaborate costumes were designed by Dada Saligeri and the often austere lighting - especially dim in the grim sunset scene that opens the opera, was by Gil Wechsler. Zeffirelli should simplify his production to give the performers more space and reduce some of its ornate complexity, but there is little doubt that his new "Turandot is likely to be a huge crowd pleaser for years to come.

Review 2:

Review of John W. Freeman in the Opera News issue of July 1987

Eva Marton worked hard to suggest further dimensions to Turandot's personality: she could not, however, create a figure of allure. Franco Zeffirelli's new Metropolitan Opera "Turandot," sold out from its [first performance] on March 12, sums up what's best and worst in our age of "Regie-Theater," when the machinery works better than ever but the opera itself may get lost in the shuffle.

Puccini was unable to finish "Turandot." If the choral and orchestral writing testify that he could advance stylistically, a happy end remained beyond him. He let his real heroine be killed off, but who is this murderous creature to whom the hero is left to make love? Eva Marton worked hard to suggest further dimensions to Turandot's personality: her singing not only was as stentorian as Puccini's music demands, but hinted at a latent femininity. She could not, however, create a figure of allure, and Plácido Domingo, leery of his role's invitation to soar in the upper reaches, registered none of Calàf's reckless infatuation.

Marton did succeed in focusing attention on the central figure, no mean feat in these surroundings. Act I, a bustling, cluttered Chinatown, could have done without its New Year's dragon, and Puccini's intent in having the Mandarin address the crowd from the ramparts was lost by standing him at street level, where he narrowly escaped being trampled. Yet the chorus, kept apart from dancers and supers, was grouped so as to do its job in this heavily choral act.

Act II opened on three huge Venetian-blinded, color-coded pagodas that dwarfed the Ping, Pang and Pong of Brian Schexnayder, Allan Glassman and Anthony Laciura. When the scene shifted to the royal court, the aesthetic of Grauman's Chinese Theater blended in a blinding explosion with that of Radio City Music Hall. Picking their way on footbridges over Mylar pools, the courtiers in resplendent Dada Saligeri costumes were watched - in a brilliant stroke of stagecraft - by huddled masses in the shadow along the stage apron. As Càlaf unraveled the riddles, scrolls attached to the princess' dress (a device from Peking Opera) were unwound to produce streamers representing the answers - green for hope, red for blood, white for Turandot, all three for Italy.

This dazzling scene suffered from a plethora of detail that confounded the senses, but the audience loved it. Hugues Cuénod, trying to project his distinctive but small voice from the far reaches of the stage on the emperor's high throne, may have enjoyed it less. The [start] of Act III proved breathtaking in quite a different way, with its miniature garden and distant panorama of water and mountains, after Oriental prints. The finale reverted to the golden court, with two pagodas from the earlier scene thrown in. Amid the joyful noise of James Levine's chorus and orchestra in Act I, it was hard for the uncertain Liù (Leona Mitchell) and reserved Calàf to find their way, let alone assert their presence. Paul Plishka created a touchingly bewildered Timur, and if the three ministers never had a chance to settle into close harmony, they conveyed the dramatic thrust of this officious trio.

Search by season: 1986-87

Search by title: Turandot,

Met careers