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More importantly, the Bulgarian tenor Oghnyan Nicolov, a Sofia prizewinner and scarcely 30, who shares Calaf with three others (all of whom sing Don Jose in the accompanying Chisinau Carmen) makes as attractive a Prince to look at as he is a delight to hear. The voice has still to shape up fully; and in Liverpool anxiety, apparently, led him slightly to race his famous 'Nessun dorma' aria (despite Alexander Samoila's orchestral pacing, which painstakingly hit just the right spot); but though slightly edgy and in need of relaxing, it is a lovely one, tender, reassuring and without rasp, and paired with Magomedova, utter delight. Calaf's high note at 'No, I want you burning with love' was indeed a highlight of the evening.

Oghnyan Nicolov as Prince Calaf, with Turandot, The Emperor, Ping, Pang and Pong in the 2001 Chisinau National Opera production of Puccini's 'Turandot'

What's more, Nicolov moves with the subtle step of a dancer and the grace of a gentle guru. Cowed by nothing, he commands easily and naturally from the moment he enters -- kindly and considerate to Liu and the exiled Timur (Vitalie Cires); upright and respectful to the court; gently commanding to servants; vocally lucid even when faced upstage; in short, a true-born successor -- which is exactly what Calaf needs to be. This serene, slender, young but mature beyond his years Calaf can inhale the perfume of his 'flower of morning', yet at the crucial moment, effectively rape Turandot -- to her amazement -- with a mere kiss. I thought this a surpassing and consistent performance, and a powerful presence, and the audience thought so too.

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Copyright © 7 October 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK





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