Stefano Poda’s production of Turandot (he is also responsible for the sets, costumes and lighting) for Teatro Regio Torino, recorded in early 2018, is one of the most visually effective productions of this (or perhaps any opera) that I’ve seen. I don’t know whether it makes “sense” (but I’m also not sure that any Turandot does) and, if it does, I doubt one would be able to unpack it in a single viewing because there’s a lot going on (but see comment at the end).
It’s largely set in a very high walled white cube. Indeed in Act 1 almost everything is white; clothes, wigs, lights. The exceptions are Calaf, Timur and Liu who are in black and large numbers of almost naked dancers. All the denizens of Peking appear to have a red vertical line running from forehead to groin. Right at the end Turandot (I think) appears in a red skirt to (maybe) execute the latest victim. There’s some quite complex choreography (presumably by Poda) really well executed.
Act 2 opens in a morgue with more characters in white and more, more or less naked dancers. Turandot is essentially indistinguishable from a large crowd of lookalikes. They even lip synch when she is singing solo as in “In questa reggia”. For the riddle scene, Calaf is off to one side, in a sort of cell, on a chaise longue. And there’s lots more dancing. For Act 3, the colour scheme more or less reverses. Now Turandot and the court are in black but Liu is in white. Liu’s “suicide” is highly stylized and she walks away from it, smiling, with Timur. And that’s pretty much it because this production ends where Puccini did. Neither the Alfano or Berio conclusions are used. So, in summary, visually intriguing but a bit perplexing.
Musically it’s pretty decent. Rebeka Lokar sings powerfully as Turandot but doesn’t really get to be a “character”. One possible interpretation would be that Turandot doesn’t literally exist as an individual. What she represents if not though, I have no idea. Erika Grimaldi is fine as Liu. Jorge de León is a decent actor but he’s not the most vocally compelling Calaf and, I think, he lowers the pitch on “Nessun dorma”. The chorus and orchestra are really good though and Gianandrea Noseda gets a musically satisfying performance from all concerned.
Video direction is by Tiziano Mancini and it’s pretty good. He does get a bit “arty” at times but maybe that’s less out of place here than in more literal productions. He uses a lot of wide angle shots from high up in the house which really help with figuring out what’s going on. On Blu-ray the picture is fine but I found the DTS-HD-MA sound a bit muddy. The stereo option seems cleaner and is very decent. The only extras on the disk are some trailers and the booklet is utilitarian with a very short essay, synopsis and track listing. Subtitle options are English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Korean and Japanese.
This disk is interesting and worth a look but I have to believe there are better sung Turandot‘s out there. I would prefer the most recent La Scala recording if it weren’t for some sound issues and the Calaf’s acting (or lack of it). I still haven’t found a Turandot recording I could unconditionally recommend.