Turandot (Giacomo Puccini)
  • Giacomo Puccini. Dramma lirico in three acts. 1924.
  • Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, after the fairy-tale drama by Carlo Gozzi.
  • First performance at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 25th April 1926.
CHARACTERS

Princess Turandot

soprano

The Emperor Altoun, her father

tenor

Timur, the dispossessed King of Tartary

bass

Calaf, his son

tenor

Liù, a young slave-girl

soprano

Ping, Grand Chancellor

baritone

Pang, General Purveyor

tenor

Pong, Chief Cook

tenor

A Mandarin

baritone

The Prince of Persia

silent role

The Executioner (Pu-Tin-Pao)

silent role

By imperial decree, Princess Turandot is to marry the first royal suitor able to answer her three riddles, failure leading to execution, a fate to be suffered by the Prince of Persia. Calaf resolves to try his chance with the cold-hearted Princess, although Ping, Pang and Pong and his father try to dissuade him. Turandot poses her three riddles, which Calaf answers correctly, offering her a chance of escape, if, before morning, she can find out his name. Every effort is made to find out Calaf ’s name, with the slave-girl Liù tortured, but remaining loyally silent, killing herself rather than reveal it. Finally Calaf tells her his name, but now Turandot has learned that his true name is Love.

Puccini did not live to finish his opera, which was completed after his death by Franco Alfano, who based his work on the few sketches that Puccini had made for the final scenes. Other composers have also offered their own completions of the work, although Alfano’s remains the version generally staged. For musically and operatically irrelevant reasons, Calaf ’s Nessun dorma (None shall sleep) has won wide currency, an aria that, in its original context, marks the frantic search ordered by Turandot for the name of her apparently successful suitor. Liù tries to dissuade Calaf from his endeavour in Signore, ascolta (Listen, master), to which he replies by urging her not to cry, Non piangere, Liù. Turandot explains the reason for her apparent coldness and cruelty in her second act In questa reggia (In this royal palace), while Liù, under interrogation, is brave enough to tell the Princess of the power of love, in Tu che di gel sei cinta (You who are bound in ice). Puccini had recourse to Chinese melodies for his score, although the inflation of a simple Chinese folksong into a theme of imperial splendour strikes a listener familiar with the original song as inappropriate.