Karajan is not really my favorite conductor. I don’t know why, probably, too selfish, lacks of pulsation, too polished… But, I have to admit that he belongs to the most important conductors in the twentieths… So, I’m always curious about what he proposes, as it’s always different, and, out of this, interesting…Is it all about Karajan? No, certainly not… The three of chorus, orchestra and conductor are really astonishing in my sight. The mixture of transparency and smoothness achieved, typically for the parts where only the chorus and the orchestra are playing, is really worth it. The recording, made in the beginning age of digital recordings, helps certainly…

Opera is not just about orchestra, so, let’s continue with the singers… Domingo has the right color for the role, but, here, he seems at his vocal limits, the score being probably. A pity, as the singing is nice, and surprising, as Domingo sang the role a lot of times live…

The Liu sung by Barbara Hendricks is very nice, she has a nice clear voice, with a ringing in it, giving the youngness to the role needed. And, the voice corresponds to the vision from Karajan.

Last, and as you may have read in a lot of recensions, Katia Ricciarelli is singing Turandot. And, even if in the most times I’m quite differentiating, I think she is really misfitting. Not that her Timbre, or her voice aren’t nice, but, if Domingo was at his vocal limits, she seems to be way far past the limit… This leads to unprecision in the notes and tempi, which are quite a pity…

The other roles are song by well known singers like Heinz Zednik, Francesco Araiza, Gottfried Hornik, Siegmund Nimsgern… In some cases, they lack the italian idiomatic, but from the voice and integration in the “Karajan concept”, they are very nice…

So, what conclusion? When hearing to this recording, like I’m currently doing while writing this post, I always feel that the polish / finishing lacks here… Why? If you listen carefully, you even here the cuts made for alternate notes (typically at the end of “Non piangere Liu”…). At other parts, alternate recordings would have been necessary to become perfect. So, as it is a studio recording, it looks unachieved. There are really great moments (the chorus together with the orchester), making this recording interesting, but certainly far from being a reference!

Kind Regards,

Christophe Grévent