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Reviews: Puccini: Turandot - Mehta

Reviews: 1

Review by toddao January 17, 2015 (10 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
It is frequently said that amongst Decca’s great recordings its operas represent “jewels”. If so this 1972 recording of Turandot would have to be a “crown jewel.”
It has been continually in print since its 1973 release, sales enhanced by Nessun Dorma’s chart success when it became the signature tune for the 1990 World Cup.

I don’t know the sales figures, but it must be one of the most successful opera recordings ever released.

It has been released over the years in many formats and now comes as a Pure Audio BD in a chunky SACD- sized book which also includes two CDs if you are so inclined. It has a full libretto, articles about the recording and opera and some photos of the recording session.

Given the talent both in front of and behind the microphone, it is difficult to believe that this recording will ever be equaled, let alone surpassed.

We get Joan Sutherland at the peak of her considerable powers, perfectly cast as the icy princess. Here her somewhat cold demeanour (she was never, as she admitted, a great singing actress) works in her favour opposite a golden voiced Luciano Pavarotti. Youthful and ardent long before his voice became a shallow reflection of its past glories. This stellar pairing is joined by Montserrat Caballe as a sweet voiced, heart melting Liu.
With the rest of the cast filled out with care, vocally, nothing is wanting.

Behind the microphone we also have another triumvirate- this time of recording stars led by Kenneth Wilkinson together with James Lock and Tryggvi Tryggvason.
They had the benefit of recording in the excellent acoustics of the long departed Kingsway Hall in central London. Care was taken to use the stereo sound stage to full effect, by not only moving the voices from right to left to enhance dramatic action, but also from front to back. The chorus (the superb John Aldis Choir) is placed at different positions and perspectives again intelligently used for dramatic effect. In addition, the London Philharmonic was inspired by conductor Zubin Mehta. Again great care was taken to record the numerous gongs, bells, etc specified by Puccini to give his score its “Chinese” flavour.

A sonic spectacular indeed.

This being Universal there is no multi track remaster. Only stereo. Not unsurprisingly given their inane track record in this area. However among the few SACD opera recordings there is a multi channel (albeit only 3) recording: the 1959 RCA Living Stereo with Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjoerling and Renata Tebaldi under Eric Leinsdorf.

In its way also a spectacular recording with a stellar cast from that era. However, as good as it may have looked on paper to another legendary sound engineer, Lewis Layton and producer Richard Mohr, to segregate Calaf and Turandot to extreme left and right channels for much of the time, ensures that listening soon becomes very tiring. It becomes the sonic equivalent of a tennis match!

This Decca recording will hopefully continue to sell well in this new format. It’s essential addition to the collection of any SACD opera fan or audiophile.

More please Decca.!!!!!

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