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About dramma per musica


Robert Kingston


Where to begin? My name is Bob Kingston. I’m a librarian, free-lance musicologist, pre-concert lecturer, and self-professed opera fanatic living in Portland, Oregon. My operatic tastes are pretty eclectic, though I’m not a huge fan of French grand opera (who is?) and Gluck’s appeal totally escapes me. Radical or updated stagings don’t bother me in the least, as long as they succeed in bringing out aspects of the drama that I hadn’t noticed before. I’d rather watch something that generates a strong reaction–negative or positive–than sit through yet another thunderously dull production of Carmen or Rigoletto. I love collecting historic vocal recordings, and I often use examples of these in my classes and presentations. So, don’t be surprised if I post a clip of some obscure Russian tenor or Italian baritone from time to time.

turandot redux

One last little bit of Turandot… A reader reminded me that I had discussed the tangled history of Turandot‘s completion during my talk, and that I mentioned that I would post both the complete Franco Alfano ending (usually referred to as Alfano I) and the finale that Puccini’s publisher, Ricordi, commissioned from the composer Luciano Berio in 2001. (Thanks, Jo!) First off, then, is Franco Alfano’s original and uncut ending for Turandot, with Josephine Barstow, Lando Bartolini, and the Scottish Opera Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri. And from the CD “Puccini Discoveries,” here’s Luciano Berio’s very different take on the final scene of the opera. In this recording,  the role of Calaf is sung by Bülent Bezdüz, Eva Urbanová sings Turandot, and Riccardo Chailly conducts the Orchestra e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi. Alfano and Berio used the sketches and continuity drafts Puccini left at the time of his death in 1924, but given the incomplete nature of those materials, both composers felt the need to exercise a certain amount of creative license in order to fill in gaps. Since Alfano was denied access to Puccini’s orchestrated score of Turandot up until just a few weeks before his completion was due to be submitted for review by Ricordi and Arturo Toscanini, his choice of instrumentation for the final scene often differs significantly from Puccini. Berio’s “solution” to the problem of the ending is, I think, quite effective, mainly because it uses snatches of Liu’s music to remind us that this character played an important part in the shaping of the drama in Act 3. Her memory hangs, in a sense, over Turandot’s thaw like a low grey cloud.