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There is, however, a way of mitigating the uneasiness when Calaf finally kisses Turandot. In the original programme notes conductor Carlo Rizzi explains how:

'If the moment of the kiss comes at the big chords, it can seem
threatening. If the chords represent the beating of Turandot's heart,
and they kiss at the moment of the pause, then the beautiful music
that follows shows that something new has happened in her mind.'

Sadly, not in this revived production. What we have is a full-on snog, at the orchestral climax, with a passive Turandot essentially pinned to the ground by a very solidly-built Calaf. It is all too reminiscent of the moment, in the previous scene, where Liu is pinned to the ground by Ping, Pang and Pong in a symbolised version of her torture. And, by extension, it echoes the very rape of her ancestress which has hardened Turandot's heart in the first place.

Rafael Rojas (Calaf) and Francesca Patanè (Turandot). Photo © 2004 Brian Tarr
Rafael Rojas (Calaf) and Francesca Patanè (Turandot). Photo © 2004 Brian Tarr

It has to be said that both Rafael Rojas and Francesca Patanè were, anyway, rather one-dimensional so far as their acting was concerned; vocally, too, in the case of Patanè. Very gutsy; not a pretty voice but undeniably powerful in a sort of sub-Callas way; but lacking variety. Rojas was rather better, capturing in his delivery the driven, brooding nature of his character and scoring bonus points for refusing to over-egg Nessun Dorma. The moment where he rushes to the gong and strikes it, thus taking up the challenge of the riddles, was genuinely visceral.

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Copyright © 25 September 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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