Robert Kimball in the New York Post:

Giacomo Puccini’s stirring bountifully melodious “Turandot,” absent from the Metropolitan Opera since 1975, returned to the Met last night in a big, eye catching, densely- packed, opulent new production staged by the master of monumentality, Franco Zeffirelli. A first night gala audience, which included a wide array of glitterati ranging from Jacqueline Onassis to Donald Trump, sold out the house and had ample time to converse and hobnob during the intermissions of Zeffirelli’s stately pageant. It took 42 minutes to complete the… set change between the first two acts – long enough it seemed for Trump to have put up a skating rink on the Met stage. There was one lavish Zeffirelli setting for the second scene of the second act, which takes place in the square in front of the old Peking Palace and the emperor’s throne which drew gasps (it was repeated in the last scene of the opera).

This setting was as commodious a stage-filler as one could imagine, decorated with what seemed to be mother-of-pearl, somewhat overcluttered and overly rich in detail. Scenes like this define grand opera for the world at large. In its midst, Eva Marton as the cruel, icy princess Turandot, poured out volcanic tones as she sang her great aria. “In questa Reggia.” Anyone who heard Miss Marton kick off the vocal portion of the Met’s Centennial Gala in October 1983 with this aria knows how stirringly she can sing it. Placido Domingo was convincing as the riddle-solving Calaf. His iron lungs and strong voice were in good form. His glorious third act aria “Nessun dorma” was decently sung, but in short dramatic bursts rather than in long lyric lines.

Leona Mitchell was Liu, the slave girl who loved Calaf but kills herself rather than betray him. She sang her exquisite Act I entreaty, “signore, Ascolta,” with sweet, unforced beauty. Princess Turandot’s three ministers, Ping. Pang and Pong, were portrayed ably by Brian Schexnyder, Allan Glassman and Anthony Laciura, respectively. Their delicate, rhapsodic reverie “Ho una casa nell’Honan,” is one of the score’s dulcet delights. Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod. making his Met debut at age 84, was the old Emperor and Paul Plishka, sang sonorously as Timur.

On this day in 1857 Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra premiered in Venice.

Birthday anniversaries of composer Thomas Augustine Arne (1710), writer Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863), conductor Hans Knappertsbusch (1888), soprano Helga Pilarczyk (1925), bass-baritone Zoltán Kelemen (1926) and tenor Veriano Luchetti (1939).

Happy birthdays to countertenors Randall Scotting and David Daniels.