In 2002, Riccardo Chailly conducted the first Turandot to use the new completion by Luciano Berio at the Amsterdam Muziektheater directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. 15 years later, the same team reunited to mount it at La Scala and commit it to video. Alfano’s completion sought to continue the spectacle but, in its rush to wrap up the story, is dramatically implausible – poor Liú is soon forgotten and love conquers all. Berio’s alternative is low key and pensive, its modernist touches may jar the ear but it’s more respectful than Alfano’s gauche reprise of “that” tune. Lehnhoff’s production has some curiosities but I “get” his neo-Brechtian-meets-Commedia-dell’arte aesthetic and there are some arresting images.
Stemme is splendid as the cruel princess, her warm tone evincing a humanity behind the ice; her Wagnerian credentials allow her to ride the maelstrom from the pit in thrilling fashion. Antonenko does well to match her, though his sound has tightened since his fine 2008 Salzburg Otello. Maria Agrest is a lovely full-toned Liú, and the Milan chorus is superb whether delicately awestruck or baying for blood.
Topping all is the brilliance of Chailly’s conducting – this could well be the finest account of the score you will ever hear – an ideal balance of vibrant colour, violent spectacle and Italianate lyricism. All recorded in sound and vision with superb clarity.