Would the real “Turandot” please stand up?

Well, according to the poll, 75% feel that neither Lindstrom nor Guleghina were authentic enough in their portrayal of Puccini’s Principessa di Gelo.  So, what do I mean by authenticity?  When a composer creates a character, it is not solely their dramatis personae that is taken into account.  In fact, most operatic characters are defined by their singing, by the style of their music, and thus a number of elements come into play that go above and beyond fach.  To be authentic, language, aesthetic understanding, musicality, and emotional impetus are mandatory.

The role of Turandot is usually sung by a dramatic spinto, but don’t let this confuse you.  There are many moments where lyric qualities are absolutely necessary.  Actually, Turandot’s style and her mannerisms shift as her persona goes through a series of emotional shifts.  As such, the singer portraying her must possess all of these capabilities.  The role was originally sung by Puccini’s favourite soprano, Maria Jeritza.  The other great, and my personal favourite, was Birgit Nilsson.  Unfortunately, neither Lindstrom or Guleghina came close…should we expect them to?  ABSOLUTELY!  Just because we are hedging on 2010 doesn’t mean that we should consider that the great era of singers has come to an end.  Obviously, this notion affects the young generation of singers and how they are being instructed (but that’s another issue altogether).

Lindstrom’s debut was exciting, to say the least, and the voice has the type of laser quality that is absolutely necessary of Turandot.  Lacking in this quality deems Turandot’s persona to be warmer than she should be.  The upper tessitura requires that kind of silver shimmer that lingers in the theater long after the note has ended.  Unfortunately, Ms. Lindstrom’s middle and lower voice were uneven in relationship to her upper voice.  This is a technical issue and not the result of the role itself.  Interestingly, singers of this fach need to use chest resonance in the middle and lower voices because the top is so heavy.  Pushing the head voice down too far isn’t condusive.

Guleghina, on the other hand, has a much darker tone and is, in my opinion, not as much a spinto as she is a Dramatic Soprano.  She is more comfortable in the middle and lower range than the top and unfortunately many of her upper notes left much to be desired.  She infused portamenti into those phrases where the higher notes are meant to be held, lingering, spinning, and laser-like, in order to save herself.  There is no question that the voice is important in the genre, but unfortunately, she didn’t impress more than Lindstrom.

Perhaps we should make a clone by combining the two of them:  Lindstrom’s top with Guleghina’s middle and bottom would be ideal….but still, never Nilsson.

Nilsson as TurandotBirgit Nilsson, the quintessential Turandot