By | 08/07/2009 0 comments


LUCIANO Pavarotti was responsible for turning a single operatic aria into a legendary musical moment.
And that was just the 1990 World Cup!
Renowned producer Ellen Kent decided to bring Puccinis opera Turandot back into her touring repertoire as a homage to the late Pavarotti.
So it was down to British-based Georgian Irakli Grigali to try to set the spine tingling in the Ellen Kent and Amphitheatre Productions' Chisinau National Opera performance at Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre on Monday.
Powerful tenor Irakli pulled it off, bringing an understated lyrical quality to the piece, without soaring to the heights or making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  
Irakli, cutting an uninspiring figure overall, made it the highlight of what was otherwise a disappointing production, directed in traditional storytelling fashion by Kent herself that took too long to get going.
Turandot (nicely sung by Galina Bernaz), is the icy-hearted daughter of the Chinese Emperor, whose hand can only be won by the successful solving of three riddlesto fail means a quick Mikado-like beheading.
In fact, with the slightly creaky flapping courtiers Ping, Pong and Pang it almost slipped in Gilbert and Sullivan, but without as many laughs.
Turandot has just dispatched the Prince of Persia to the afterworld when up rolls Calaf (Grigali) who is captivated by her and decides to try his luck.
The show boasted a new two-storey amphitheatre set, with local youngsters comically waving what appear to be butterflies on sticks, large copies of terracotta army statues and dancers in spangly tops almost filling an overcrowded stage.
Surtitles helped the audience keep up, although sometimes one line of dialogue went a very long way in translation.
Enjoyable, but no more than pleasant, it was fairly pedestrian, unengaging stuff that failed to take off despite its lavish appearance.
Even the chorus of the Chisinau National Opera mostly lost the battle with the artillery coming from the orchestra conducted by Gheorghe Stanciu.  
Elena Dee, as Liu the slave girl secretly in love with Calaf, proved the stand-out performance with a beautifully-controlled, clear-toned delivery and real emotion in her face.
Her solo in Act III was superb, at once deeply engaging, profoundly heartfelt and transporting.
Other voice performances started out rather weakly, with even the leads being drowned out by the orchestra at points in Act I.
Although the vocal performers certainly strengthened in Acts II and III, Grigali was still eclipsed by the music at points.
Having said that the audience seemed to love it, with cheers at the end during three curtain calls.


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