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Evaluate: The Met Opera’s ‘Turandot’ Returns With a Robust Debut

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Puccini’s “Turandot,” a verismo opera set in a fabled model of historic China, makes for an odd love story. Its unlikable romantic leads go largely unfazed by the loss of life and dismemberment they instigate; after they lastly share real love’s kiss, they’re standing atop a figurative pile of corpses.

On Wednesday on the Metropolitan Opera, the conductor Oksana Lyniv made a powerful debut, emphasizing the murderous, life-or-death stakes as a substitute of the fairy-tale Orientalism that has made it a cultural lightning rod lately.

“Turandot” has been on the receiving finish of requires revision and more for the stereotypes it perpetuates about Chinese language folks — equivalent to its “dragon woman” title princess — recalling an imperialistic period of European chauvinism.

The reckoning round “Turandot” creates an issue for the Met, as a result of the corporate’s long-running manufacturing, a lavish spectacle launched by the director Franco Zeffirelli in 1987, is a success. The gold-and-ecru throne room of Act II nonetheless dazzles, and eye-popping exoticism runs rampant, with acrobats, ribbon dancers, curled-roof pavilions and a dragon puppet.

However that stage dressing was not current in Lyniv’s thrilling conducting. The brass stabs that open Act I had an nearly expressionistic high quality — extreme, very important, grim — and those that closed it had been chilly, highly effective and withholding. Taut strings and slinky woodwinds moved with dramatic, serpentine effectivity. Lyniv seized alternatives to foreground astringent harmonies.

Turandot’s motif, which Puccini based mostly on a Chinese language people tune, was splendid with out being ornamental in Act I, and warmly earthy in Act III after the princess had been humbled. Lyniv’s sense of rubato created simply sufficient elasticity for the singers to phrase naturally, as within the ministers’ dreamily nostalgic “Ho una casa nell’Honan.”

The soprano Elena Pankratova, additionally making a debut, was an uncommonly delicate Turandot who turned the cliché of the icy princess on its head. In her opening aria, “In questa reggia,” she revealed herself to be a deeply human storyteller, backing off the ends of phrases in a means that drew listeners into her story of generational trauma. She did such pretty work within the position’s lower-lying components that one might forgive her lack of affect within the excessive notes within the riddle scene.

The tenor SeokJong Baek didn’t have a lot to do throughout his firm debut earlier within the season within the restricted position of Ismaele in Verdi’s “Nabucco.” Not so in “Turandot,” wherein his Calàf galvanized the efficiency. His shining, fantastically deployed voice represented a decided, vainglorious Calàf ruled by his personal egoism. Excessive notes didn’t a lot bloom as rise like a column from a good-looking center, and pastel-colored singing added depth with out turning him right into a generic romantic hero. Baek’s physicality, elegant in its restraint, likewise conveyed Calàf’s certitude.

The soprano Aleksandra Kurzak formed Liù’s music with full of life confidence and ahead movement. Even in her sacrifice for Calàf, this Liù remained type and wise reasonably than pitiful and meek, an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad with harmful needs. The bass Vitalij Kowaljow made an argument for casting Timur, Calàf’s father, with a singer who nonetheless possesses reserves of richness and energy. His mournful howls after Liù’s loss of life had dignity, and a kingly dimension.

As Lyniv introduced the opera to a stirring conclusion, the viewers couldn’t include its enthusiasm, protecting the ultimate bars of the rating with raucous applause as gold confetti fluttered onto the stage from the rafters. The ovation was clearly for the resplendent stage image, but when the applause for Lyniv’s solo bow was any indication, it was additionally for the conductor who accomplished it.


In repertory, with completely different casts, via June 7 on the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan; metopera.org.