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Opera Review

Teatro Lirico d'Europa Offers a Tepid 'Turandot' in Cerritos

February 16, 2001|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The transformation of Puccini's Turandot from icy, vengeful princess to loving woman is always a problematic moment in the composer's final opera.

Tamara Krutsenko, who took the role in the Teatro Lirico d'Europa production Wednesday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, handled it as persuasively as anyone. Overall, though, this is definitely budget opera--fans will get much more bang for their buck at our local companies.

Krutsenko reacted strongly at first sight of Calaf, her next suitor and future husband--and second sight, for that matter, because in a highly unusual move company artistic and stage director Giorgio Lalov brought her back for another encounter at the end of the first act.

There were other moments of such glances. She also looked genuinely moved at Liu's declaration of the power of love, which allowed the slave girl to resist the torture Turandot ordered. There might be something in this love stuff, after all.

Vocally, however, Krutsenko was less persuasive, singing with a dark, cloudy soprano that turned strident in the heights, where much of the part lies.

Roumen Doikov sang Calaf with a bright, strong Italianate tenor, although he had a tendency to scoop into notes and also to stalk the stage and thrust up his arms like a victorious prizefighter after solving each of the three riddles.

Kenneithia Mitchell was a gentle, affecting Liu. Alexander Tinkov, Dimiter Dimitrov and Pancho Ivanov sang effectively as Ping, Pang, Pong, respectively. Dimiter Stantchev was a big, hoarse-voiced Timur. Vassia Kraftef was a typically reedy-voiced Emperor. Hristo Sarafov was a weak Mandarin.

Lalov's main directorial conceit was to mask virtually everyone except the principals until the scene of Turandot's final declaration of love, which she gave away prematurely by taking Calaf's hand long before making the climactic announcement. Whatever metaphysical import the change implied, at least the chorus members could see the conductor clearly for a change.

Conductor Krassimir Topolov kept the score moving briskly, and the orchestra, despite some glitches in the brass, played with power.

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