October 15, 2003
Staatsoper unter den Linden

A new finale for Puccini's romantic drama

Turandot at Deutsche Staatsoper with new finale completed by Luciano Berio


Giacomo Puccini
Luciano Berio (Ending of the 3rd Act)


Staatsoper Unter den Linden
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Director: Doris Dörrie
Set Designer, Costume Designer: Bernd Lepel
Light Designer: Franz Peter David
Chorus Master: Eberhard Friedrich
Choreographer: Valentina Simeonova
Dramaturgy: Regula Rapp

Turandot: Sylvie Valayre
Altoum: Peter-Jürgen Schmidt
Timur: Alexander Vinogradov
Calaf: Dario Volonté
Liù: Judith Howarth
Ping: Alfredo Daza
Pang: Stephan Rügamer
Pong: Pavol Breslik
Mandarin: Yi Yang

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A new finale for Puccini's romantic drama

Turandot at Deutsche Staatsoper with new finale completed by Luciano Berio

by Jens Paape / translation: Andrej Huesener

Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin's new production of Puccini's uncompleted opera about ice-cold princess Turandot opens with a striking image: a choir made up of skeletons in small boxes at the back of the stage, lit with strong purple light, the boxes forming a Christian cross all the way up to the ceiling. With Kent Nagano conducting and Doris Dörrie producing, the production team for this new staging is of the highest calibre. The added finale, composed by Luciano Berio, had been particularly eagerly anticipated.

However, in many aspects the production is contradictory: Japanese manga comics - repeatedly mentioned in the programme notes and in the introductory talks - are projected onto gigantic, transparent, frequently changing curtains. The costumes of Ping, Pang, Pong, for example, are reminiscent of science fiction, or allude to rubber fetishism (Liù, Timur). The opera's hero, Calaf, is even wearing chavy tracksuits. As a result, the audience never quite knows where the action is taking place. The opera is set in China but mangas are of Japanese origin. Many Christian symbols are used (e.g. the above mentioned skeleton boxes arranged as a Christian cross, the children's choir dressed up as angels and acting as the helpers to the henchman), as well as iconography from the 1950s and even ultra-modern imagery, such as an oversized mobile phone used as a gigantic gong. One cannot help but think that effects overpower directorial ideas.

However, choir and singers are worthy of praise throughout, mastering their parts vocally and with considerable acting skills. In the part of Timur, Alexander Vinogradov convinced with some incredible singing even when forced to crawl on the stage floor. Sylvie Valayre is an impressive Turandot, believable in every gesture and facial expression. Scene 1 of Act 2 is beautifully sung and cheekily staged: Ping, Pang, Pong (Alfredo Daza, Stephan Rügamer, Pavol Breslik) philosophising about Turandot's murderous puzzles, her many victims, love and the beauty of life, aided scenically by three scantily clad women.

The Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Kent Nagano interprets the changing moods of Puccini's music with precision and commitment - at times melodic, modern and jazzy but also dramatically powerful. Only occasionally does the full orchestral sound overpower the voice of Dario Volonté in the role of Calaf.

The new finale to Act 3 was commissioned to be composed by Luciano Berio; and his music is hushed. The orchestra plays long passages on its own, the remaining singers (Turandot, Calaf und Altoum) wait for their entry until finally Turandot - by now dressed in the same tracksuits as her suitor - admits her love to Calaf. When the curtain falls, the audience feels as if something else is going happen but it doesn't. As a result, the final applause is more subdued than the cheers and occasional bravos after Act 1 and 2.

(Unfortunately, the Staatsoper does not provide us with photos)