BWW Review: Is the Met's TURANDOT Different on PBS' Great Performances Than in the Opera House?
Back in October of last year, the Met was performing Puccini's TURANDOT live and sending it around the world to thousands of theatres through its in its Live in HD series. But now, in these crazy days when no theatres are open to the public, Live in HD series is a lifeline to the Met; last Friday, on PBS' Great Performances (on WNET in New York, at least) there was this fall's TURANDOT with a first-rate cast: Christine Goerke as Turandot, Yusif Eyvazov as Calaf, Eleanora Buratto as Liu and James Morris as Timur, conducted by the Met's wonderful Music Director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin.
As someone who has seen the production many times, it not only gave me the opportunity to hear a cast I hadn't heard before, but the chance to think about whether the opera house and the small (or big) screen gave you the same performance. The answer is a definite no--but that's not necessarily a bad thing, though the voices sound different, no matter how good your sound system. After all, there's othing like an unprocessed, real voice, warts and all.
The production by Franco Zeffirelli is loved by audiences for its over-the-top opulence--and hated by many critics for the same reason. In the theatre, there is often so much going on that the singers are swallowed up--a good trick when you're hearing the magnificent pipes of Goerke, Eyvazov and Buratto in fine fettle, as they were in this performance, but still not exactly easy to find on stage. This is not only true for TURANDOT but for the director's LA BOHEME, another audience favorite. It was less of a problem with his TOSCA, which unfortunately was replaced by a similar but less effective version, compliments of David McVicar.
On screen, whether you're seeing it in a theatre or on your own TV, things get cut down to size, with cameras zooming in on a small segment of the stage, telling us where to concentrate instead of letting us guess for ourselves. It also shows us facial features and emotions that you can't find in the opera house, no matter how close you are to the stage.
I've appreciated this aspect of the HD performances before; for example, the very first time I saw one of the broadcasts, Wagner's DIE WALKURE (the second part of the Ring cycle), the camera moved around to show us the fear in Brunnhilde's face as she hid behind her sisters to try to keep from Wotan's view. From that moment, I knew that the skills of the cameramen and directors brought something different to these HD versions that made them a different animal.
So whether you're watching on your television or on the Met's website on your computer, the productions are well worth watching--and might even have a few surprises for those who have seen them onstage.
Next in the Great Performances from the Met lineup is Philip Glass's AKHNATEN, Sunday, April 5 at 12 noon on PBS. See your local PBS station for details. Also, see the Met's website for upcoming performances on your computer, tablet or phone.