STAGING a one-off concert performance of Puccini's Turandot is both an economy and an extravagance. It's a huge work to pull together for just one outing, and a somewhat mystifying planning decision given the length of rehearsals involved. But it's considerably cheaper than giving it a full production, of course. Whatever the logic, a four o'clock Sunday afternoon showing at the Usher Hall clearly hit the spot, and with a full house and an enthusiastic reception, the punters clearly felt they got their money's worth.
With the announcement that the supertitles had broken in rehearsal, and with no printed libretto provided, I feared we were off to a poor start. But Francesco Corti and his large orchestra soon blasted that idea far from our mind. With plenty of colour, verve and energy, Puccini's score came to life, gilded and shining. The extra brass, normally onstage, were placed up in the balcony of the Usher Hall, and the resulting surround-sound effect thrilled many.
Conducting this as his farewell to Scottish Opera, Corti, as usual, seemed unconcerned about balance. Does this conductor not care if we can't hear his singers? Or does his orchestra not believe him when he makes his balance requests? Is it, in fact, his artistic wish that the human voice should be drowned out, as part of the thrilling sweep he finds in the music? Whatever the answer, his frequent tendency to overwhelm from the pit was only underlined on the level concert platform. Commendations to the chorus and youth chorus, who sounded very classy, and also to a lovely cast of soloists, all of whom lost the balance battle, with the exception only of Sir Willard White.