PUCCINI: Turandot (Sung in English)
Jane Eaglen (Turandot); Dennis O'Neill (Calaf); Mary Plazas (Liu); Nicolai Gedda (Emperor Altoum); Clive Bayley (Timur); Peter Sidhom (Ping); Mark Le Brocq (Pang); Peter Wedd (Pong); Simon Bailey (A Mandarin); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; New London Children's Choir; Philharmonia Orch/David Parry, cond.
CHANDOS CHAN 3086 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT: 78:113 & 40:26
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PUCCINI: Turandot
Giovanna Casolla (Turandot); Lando Bartolini (Calaf); Masako Deguci (Liu); Francisco Heredia (Emperor Altoum); Felipe Bou (Timur); Armando Ariostini (Ping); Javier Más (Pang) Vicenc Esteve (Pong); José A. García-Quijada (A Mandarin); Choral Society of Bilbao; Children's Chorus: Escolania Santa Maria de la Victoria; Malaga Philharmonic Orch/Alexander Rahbari, cond.
NAXOS 8.660089/90 (2 CDs) (B) (DDD) TT: 52:14 & 53:34
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The Turandot discography is not enhanced by either of these new recordings. The Chandos issue is of interest primarily because it is sung in English (for those who desire this - I do not) and because it features one of the leading dramatic sopranos of our time, Jane Eaglen, in the title role. On some of her recordings (particularly The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser, Strauss's Four Last Songs) she has disappointed—fortunately she is in better form here, particularly in the upper register. There's little characterization, but she does hit the notes, an achievement in itself. Dennis O'Neill's Calaf is adequate, little more; Mary Plazas is an effective Liu who is able to spin out those treacherous soft high notes. An historic plus is participation of one of the fine tenors of the past half-century, Nicolai Gedda, who adds distinction to the role of Emperor Altoum. The choruses and orchestra are superb under David Parry's knowing direction, and we have the usual resonant, wide-range Chandos sound—including the biggest organ to be heard in any recording of the opera. A complete English libretto is provided.

The Naxos release is disappointing in many ways. Japanese soprano Masako Deguci easily is the finest of the three principals, although her sound is somewhat unsettled. Italian soprano Giovanna Casolla, who did not impress in the title role in the 1998 Beijing production of the opera (REVIEW), is no better in this more recent recording made in October 2001, with uneven, sometimes off-pitch, singing. Tenor Lando Bartolini is almost a caricature of an opera tenor, lunging for high notes, uneven in vocal production. Alexander Rahbar, whose conducting I have often admired, leads a nicely-paced performance, the orchestra and choruses are quite good, as is the Naxos engineering. There is no libretto but there is a track-by-track synopsis. If you wish to own an inexpensive Turandot there are other options that offer superb performances, particularly Gala 534 (a 1977 performance with Caballé and Pavarotti), Opera D'Oro 1152 (1964, with Nilsson and Corelli) and of course there are the major league commercial recordings with Bjoerling and Nilsson (RCA), Sutherland and Pavarotti (London), and Callas and Eugenio Fernandi (EMI); they are worth the extra dollars.

R.E.B. (June 2003)