Opera Scotland

Turandot

Music
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, 22 December 1858; died Brussels, 29 November 1924).
Unfinished at Puccini’s death, and completed using his sketches by Franco Alfano (1876-1954)

Text
Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni.

Source
Play (1762) by Carlo Gozzi (1720-1806).

Premieres
First performance: Milan (Teatro alla Scala), 25 April 1926.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 7 June 1927.
First performance in Scotland: Aberdeen (His Majesty's Theatre), 4 October 1929.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 18 April 1984.

Background
Turandot was Puccini’s final opera and he died before he could finalise the ending from the death of Liù. His sketches were passed to Franco Alfano for completion, and Toscanini then made substantial cuts to Alfano’s work before conducting the premiere (and ended that first performance at the death of Liù). Other attempts have been made to complete the score, most recently by Luciano Berio. The title role is not especially long – Turandot does not sing until half way through – but the part is extremely taxing vocally. The role of Calaf also seems more dramatic in style than Puccini’s previous tenor writing, and includes “Nessun dorma”, which, in recent years, has become probably the most popular of all tenor arias.

Main Characters
Liù, a slave girl (soprano)
Timur, exiled King of Tartary (bass)
Calaf, Timur’s son (tenor)
Princess Turandot, daughter of Altoum (soprano)
Ping, Grand Chancellor (baritone)
Pang, Grand Purveyor (tenor)
Pong, Grand Cook (tenor)
Emperor Altoum (tenor)

Plot Summary
In Peking in ancient legendary times, the Princess Turandot is reluctant to marry, due to her obsession with the fate of an ancestress of hers. She has set a test to challenge any suitors. If they answer three riddles she will marry them. If one answer is wrong they will be executed. So far, all have failed. As the opera starts, a crowd gathers to witness the beheading of the latest candidate, a Persian prince. Timur is in the crowd, he is old and nearly blind, and accompanied by his slave, Liù. He has been deposed as King of Tartary and has fled to Peking incognito. His son, Calaf, also in Peking, recognises him and joins them. When Turandot appears to witness the execution Calaf is fascinated by her beauty and decides to make a challenge. A trio of officials attempt to dissuade him, as do Timur and Liù, but he is determined, and strikes the gong to notify of his challenge. The trio of officials dream of a return to less bloodthirsty times, and the old emperor is also weary of the process. He begs Calaf to desist, but is also denied. Turandot appears and explains why she is behaving this way. She sets the three riddles, and one by one Calaf answers them correctly, to the increasing delight of the crowd and horror of the Princess, who begs her father to cancel the contract. He refuses. Calaf offers her a riddle of his own. If she finds his name before dawn she may have him killed. If not she will be his. Through the night the city is kept awake. Liù is discovered and tortured, but kills herself rather than reveal the answer. Turandot is fascinated by this act of self-sacrifice, and declares the answer is “Love”.

The Cast

Attendant
 
Calaf
 son of Timur - the 'Unknown Prince'
Emperor Altoum
 
Executioner
 
Liù
 a slave girl
Mandarin
 
Pang
 Grand Purveyor
Ping
 Grand Chancellor
Pong
 Grand Cook
Prince of Persia
 
Princess Turandot
 daughter of Altoum
Timur
 exiled King of Tartary

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