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A “world-class heroic tenor” debut as Calaf in ‘Turandot’ at San Francisco Opera
After an auspicious performance of Radames in last year’s Aida, Jagde has clearly arrived as a world-class heroic tenor in this role debut as Calaf ... His “Nessun dorma” showed a huge breadth of space, moving seamlessly from an intimate whisper to a hall-filling embrace ... his highs beautifully rode the crest of the orchestral wave."
“… a brilliant tenor performance by Brian Jagde … After an auspicious performance of Radames in last year’s Aida, Jagde has clearly arrived as a world-class heroic tenor in this role debut as Calaf. The character of Calaf requires a certain amount of inventiveness from the singer. He is at once an impulsive, romantic, young man to whom Puccini accords all the musical warmth of his most sympathetic heroes, and a callous Don Juan, willing to watch a deeply devoted servant be tortured for her loyalty in order to accomplish his conquest of the princess.
The role is a big ask, and Jagde accomplished it skillfully. His “Nessun dorma” showed a huge breadth of space, moving seamlessly from an intimate whisper to a hall-filling embrace … his highs beautifully rode the crest of the orchestral wave.
Strutting across the stage in a way completely unbefitting a stranger in a strange land, Jagde presented Calaf as a flawed hero whose overconfidence and bravado could cause him, at worst, to abandon his humanity. His delight in the danger of defying every warning, pride in overcoming Turandot’s challenge, and infatuation with Turandot wove noble and ignoble passions together into an inseparable knot …
Overall, Turandot was an ambitious and mostly successful start to SF Opera’s year—one particularly exciting for Jagde’s brilliant (and sure to be repeated elsewhere) performance as Calaf, and Luisotti and the SF Opera Orchestra’s continued mastery of the Italian repertoire.”
John Masko – Parterre
“But with the eerie, scene-setting strains that open Act III, everything seemed to slide into place, flowing seamlessly into Brian Jagde’s virile, beautifully nuanced “Nessun dorma.” The tenor, a product of San Francisco Opera’s Merola program and a former Adler Fellow, demonstrated secure vocal production throughout, with reserves of power not necessarily hinted-at by a burnished, supple lyric tone.”
Harvey Steiman – Seen and Heard International
“And this was singing that deserved to be heard. Brian Jagde sang Calaf in a hefty tenor with a strong top. He carried the weight of his voice all the way to the highest notes but managed a warm, open sound nonetheless.”
Ilana Walder-Biesanz – Bachtrack
“The main role falls on tenor Brian Jagde‘s solid shoulder. I recall Brian during a 2009 Merola concert singing an excerpt of Bohème where he pierced the audience’s heart with a desperate call for Mimi. It’s both a testament to Jagde’s voice and to Puccini’s keen ability to mushily manipulate your tear ducts. While Jagde has tremendously grown as a singer since, he has built a cottage industry in Puccini roles, singing Tosca and Butterfly on this stage. He brought back that Merola memory in his first invocation for Turandot! Yep, here comes that bright and assured tenor that knives through the orchestra to hit you right in the solar plexus. In the month of the tenth anniversary of Luciano Pavarotti’s death, Jagde delivered a magnificent homage to the Italian legend with a perfect Nessun Dorma.”
Cedric – SFist
“With the exception of the slave girl Liu and the hero’s father, this is a fairy tale with skewed psychology. Moods and motivation often change magically in opera, so suspension of disbelief is easier when the music conveys what the text cannot. Puccini’s gorgeous melodies and dramatic flourishes cumulatively provide a convincing experience.
That’s still a lot of pressure for tenor Brian Jagde in his role debut as the besotted Prince Calaf, willing to risk everything, including his life, for the love of the vengeful Turandot. A confident “Set em up and knock em down” attitude seems to be his stance when it comes to SFO assignments. He has already made successes of other roles, proving his vocal stamina and handsome stage presence as Radames in “Aida.” Jagde’s Don Jose in “Carmen” also showed he can act. His rendition of Pavarotti’s old signature aria “Nessun dorma” at the top of Act III was unforced and richly produced.”
Philip Campbell – Bay Area Reporter
“As his son, Calaf, the Prince of Persia, Brian Jagde is as excellent as we have learned to expect, both in his singing and his acting. He excels in his delivery of “Nessun Dorma,” possibly the most admired tenor aria in the entire classical repertoire.”
Charles Kruger – TheatreStorm
“New York tenor Brian Jagde is enjoying an important international career as a go-to spinto tenor, yet is firmly associated with the San Francisco Opera, where he spent his early career as an Adler Fellow.
Jagde’s role debut as Calaf demonstrated that he has the requisite spinto power for the riddle scene. He also showed the lyricism needed for Nessun dorma, the aria that Puccini presciently predicted would rival Cavaradossi’s E lucevan le stelle from Puccini’s “Tosca” in popularity.
It is an honor for an artist to be cast by a major international company in an operatic role he or she has never sung before. The San Francisco Opera, that invited Jagde for role debuts as Pinkerton in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and Radames in Verdi’s “Aida”, continues to display high confidence in this young tenor’s career.”
“… the opera was amazing. Turandot contains one of the most famous arias in all of opera: “Nessun dorma” or “None Shall Sleep.” In the role of Calaf, Brian Jagde (seemingly becoming the SF Opera’s tenor De Niro) performed it admirably.”
“Brian Jagde, the former Adler Fellow who in recent seasons has become the company’s go-to tenor (especially for Puccini), undertook the role of Calaf for the first time, and rose admirably to the assignment. His singing is a display of muscular exertion … always shapely and direct. And in the famous showpiece “Nessun dorma,” which begins the third act, Jagde combined sinew and tonal clarity in an irresistible alloy.”
Joshua Kosman – SFGate
“Calaf, sung by the vocally appealing tenor Brian Jagde, manages to correctly answer all three of Turandot’s riddles and wins the right to her hand in marriage … Jagde sounded radiant and he hit all his high notes with aplomb, whether it was in his dreamy Act 3 aria “Nessun dorma” or in duets with Turandot or the slave girl Liu.”
James Ambroff-Tahan – SF Examiner
“Calaf, son of Timur, Calaf, American tenor, Brian Jagde in his role debut, while soaring in the empyrean of the upper register, truly came to life and passion with the gong he struck at the end of Act one … During his “Nessun Dorma,” he hit all the high notes and smiled along with them. Dressed in red satin, along with his bride at the end, he truly stood as proud as a peacock, his kind of hero.”
Lois Silverstein – Operawire
Image: Cory Weaver / San Francisco Opera