This is the most spectacular production I’ve seen at the Volksoper, and orchestrally one of the best as well. And the basic idea of setting Turandot with bugs is kind of nifty. Unfortunately, it’s the only idea director Renaud Doucet and designer André Barbe (the team responsible for last fall’s Rusalka) seem to have had. Sure looks cool, though!
Puccini, Turandot. Volksoper Wien, 3/28/2011. Production (revival) directed by Renaud Doucet, sets by André Barbe. Conducted by Enrico Dovico with Anda-Louise Bogza (Turandot), Mario Zhang (Caláf), Melba Ramos (Liú).
It’s all quite intimidating and inhuman and ceremonial, and while it feels perfect for the music’s violence, the inhumanity also proves to be the production’s biggest stumbling block. Despite the visual impact of the big moments, the staging doesn’t do a very good job of telling the story and exploring the characters. I don’t think this was inevitable consequence of the buggy-ness of it all, but it’s how it turned out. The overwhelming visuals, monumental costumes, and static blocking don’t enable the singers to emerge from the atmosphere as personalities, and the concept is too static to pick up the slack. Barbe’s choreography (I assume, there is no other choreographer credited) was a weak point, as in Rusalka, and even when performed by bugs resembles Jazzercise. So despite a promising start, the production proved disappointing as it failed to develop over the course of the subsequent acts. There are many nice visual touches, though.
|Liù and Calaf|
With some more focused Personenregie (to be fair, it is a revival) and more Konzept for Acts 2 and 3 (sorry, there are some things you really need German for), this could have been a lot better. Pittsburgh residents should note that Barbe and Doucet are currently in your town with a second, much more traditional Turandot. They recently compared the two productions in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The US gets a more traditional version, because opera with bugs apparently falls under the category of Shit We Americans Really Can't Handle. (The Neuenfels Nabucco with bees would probably go over badly as well. And isn't there a Claus Guth Barbiere with bugs in Leipzig?)
At the Volksoper, two performances remain, on April 7 and 10. You can also see a short video on their website.
Photos copyright Volksoper Wien.