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But both vocal and acting honours went quite clearly to Olga Mykytenko, who succeeded in making Liù not only the most sympathetic but also the most believable character in the opera. Even, as for much of the time, totally static and silent, she fully inhabited her character. And her singing was by turns supple, subtle, graceful, poignant, powerful. This Liù was no sentimental cipher but quite simply the heart of the opera.
Ilya Bannik (Timur) and Olga Mykytenko (Liù) in 'Turandot'. Photo © 2004 Brian Tarr
Credit too to the lesser males. Ilya Bannik's Timur was excellent, his solo after Liù's death -- a hard act to follow -- a model of pain and dignity combined. Paul Gyton as Emperor Altoum also impressed, as did the splendid trio of Ping (Matthew Hargreaves), Pang (Philip Lloyd Holtam) and Pong (Anthony Mee). They are a vital ingredient in any successful performance. They must be more complex than mere buffoons: certainly, they provide leavening to the plot but must be rounded enough to convey desperation, loss, fear, and a cold-heartedness that keeps them in their jobs. These performers did all that. Act II, Scene One was arguably the highlight of the evening.
Matthew Hargreaves (Ping), Philip Lloyd Holtam (Pang) and Anthony Mee (Pong). Photo © 2004 Brian Tarr
As for the chorus, they may have looked rather silly at times but they sounded wonderful. And so did the orchestra, revealing what Turandot is really all about: the synthesis of a lifetime's work by Puccini. Exoticism; glorious melodies; thrilling orchestral colouring; the exploration of whatever 'modernist' devices served him best; waves of sound and rhythmic bursts that almost sweep you off your feet: all this without having, for a single moment, to suspend disbelief!