Goerke, Alagna bring star power to Met’s lavish “Turandot”

Thu Apr 04, 2024 at 12:35 pm
The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s Turandot runs through June 7. File photo: Karen Almond/ Met Opera

Near gale-force winds and driving rain buffeted people crossing the Lincoln Center Plaza on Wednesday evening. Once inside the Metropolitan Opera, however, the blazing splendor of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Turandot banished all thoughts of the inclement weather. 

Turandot is at the core of the Met’s latter season half with performances stretching from late February to early June. Wednesday night brought cast changes in all of the major roles. 

The opportunity to hear international stars Christine Goerke in the title role and Roberto Alagna as Calaf were the primary vocal draw, although Gabriella Reyes as Liù and Peixin Chen as Timur rivaled those two Met favorites for vocal glamor and emotional intensity.

Goerke first sang Puccini’s emotionally ice-encased princess at the Met in 2015. Lauded for the dramatic acuity of her portrayal and the power of her voice, the soprano delivered at this performance once again. 

With the passage of time, Goerke’s middle range has developed a fascinating depth and color. These qualities add immeasurably to the dramatic impact of her characterization, especially in her early confrontation with Calaf when a combination of fear and fascination grip Turandot.

Goerke started ”In questa reggia” serenely and negotiated its demanding leaps and grueling high tessitura to satisfaction. She kept her vibrato in check and the high A’s which top the aria delivered the requisite thrills. 

If time has not exactly stood still for Roberto Alagna, it has certainly been gentle on him. At the age of 60, he remains lithe and handsome with his voice sounding remarkably fresh. The tenor was particularly effective in the opening scene where he encounters his blind father Timur and the slave girl Liù who tends to him. 

Tenderness of voice and character, however, quickly yielded to the brash optimism and confidence of the Unknown Prince, and  “Nessun dorma” proved a thrilling star turn. If Alagna approached the role with a touch of caution, that’s one reason he is still singing so well. Neither he nor Goerke were about to squander their resources or tempt fate in their dueling high C’s which end ”In questa reggia.”

With her lush, full soprano, Gabriella Reyes was an exceptionally compelling Liù. There was an earthiness to Reyes’s slave girl that made her outpouring of love and devotion in “Signore ascolta!” particularly touching. She sang “Tu che di gel sei cinta” with a combination of disdain and defiance that pierced the heart of Goerke’s Turandot.

Peixin Chen is youthful and hale, with a voice to match, which made for a robust, regal Timur. Bass-baritone Jeongcheol Cha’s Mandarin was cut from similar cloth, as was Scott Scully’s Emperor. The latter is a far cry from the legendary Hughes Cuénod who made his Met debut in the role at the age of 85 when Zeffirelli’s production premiered in 1987.

Oksana Lyniv is conducting the bulk of the performances in the run, with Marco Armiliato leading the final four beginning May 29.  The details of Lyniv’s approach to the score were more evident, as well as the clarity which she brought to both the drama and music. Lyniv is particularly attuned to the singers on stage and committed to shaping a phrase or adjusting a tempo to their best advantage.

The Met Orchestra shone as always, as did the chorus. Earlier in the day, the Met announced that Tilman Michael, Chorus Master of the Frankfurt Opera for the past ten seasons, had been appointed Chorus Director of the Metropolitan Opera. He will replace Donald Palumbo, who is retiring after 17 years in the job.  Michael has been Chorus Master at Oper Frankfurt since 2014–15, having previously held the same post at the National Theater in Mannheim. 

Turandot runs through June 7 with multiple cast changes. metopera.org

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