Turandot, Puccini, Royal Opera House, London

4.00

How ironic that the one Puccini opera left unfinished at his death should end (or so it was deemed by those responsible for the finishing touches) with what has become the greatest of his hits – “Nessun dorma”.

Mind you, Turandot is big on irony, most of it dispensed by Ping, Pang, and Pong, the jolly trio from old Peking’s ministry of executions, and in Andrei Serban’s now almost legendary Royal Opera staging, given here on the very day of the composer’s 150th anniversary, they are very much the life and soul of the party.

Party? Well, Serban’s point is that the forbidden city is very much in love with the death; it celebrates death. And so revival director Jeremy Sutcliffe rolls out the ceremonial, exotic masked dancers caught in the sensual slow motion of Kate Flatt’s choreography, gliding like spectres across the arena of death while the populace roar their approval from the terraces of Sally Jacobs’ still striking set. It’s deservedly become one of the Royal Opera’s most durable success and since its premiere in the year of the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984, it has seen many Turandots come and go. The latest of them, Irene Theorin, succumbed to a cold on opening night (occupational hazard for an ice princess) and was hurriedly replaced by Elizabeth Connell, currently singing the role of the Mother in the new production of Hansel und Gretel.



Turandot’s mother? Well, let’s just say that Connell has been around the block a few times. But here she was, stepping up to the plate like a true star, and, I have to say, sounding better than she has in years. In a role which so often falls prey to big-voiced screamers on their way down the slippery slope to oblivion, Connell’s way into her taxing entrance aria “In questa reggia” was notable for what one might call “sleight of voice”. She used chest and glottal stop colours to explosive effect, the words – and in particular the consonants – lending a steely serrated edge to her imperiousness. It was quite a showing and culminated, in the line “His name is Love”, with a truly shining placement of the crucial top note. How rarely one hears it ping like that.



It was a good night, too, for Jose Cura, well suited to the craggy heroics of Calaf, dark and strong in the middle voice and wholehearted in that aria. And Svetla Vassileva’s Liu, generous of voice and well-practised in the floated diminuendo-crescendos that characterise the role, traditionally upstaged everyone, even in death. Conductor Nicola Luisotti had the sweep and swoon and shimmer of a score that makes love and death almost indistinguishable.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'