Turandot, Opera by G. Puccini
Turandot is the final, unfinished work by the great Giacomo Puccini. As his time was slipping away and a painful illness was draining his powers, the great maestro poured every last bit of creativity and passion into his ultimate project. According to some accounts, he passed away holding a page from the yet-unfinished score. The premiere took place on 25 April 1926 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. His friend, the conductor Arturo Toscanini, held the baton and paid an emotional tribute to the late Puccini by stopping the performance at the point in Act III where the original score ended. Subsequent performances feature the ending composed by Franco Alfano, a pupil of Puccini’s, and Rome’s Teatro Costanzi now presents Turandot in its official full glory.
Puccini had a knack for exotic operatic settings. For Turandot, the composer and librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni focused on a Central Asian legend about the princess with a heart of stone. Previously dramatized by Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi, the story tells of Turandot’s cruel treatment of her royal suitors: to win her hand in marriage, they must answer her riddles – or face execution. The handsome Prince Calaf chances upon Turandot’s kingdom and is initially appalled by her callousness, but her beauty wins him over instantly. Miraculously, he answers her question but sees her reluctance to fulfil her part of the deal. In an ultimate test of love, Calaf offers Turandot a riddle of his own: if she manages to learn his true name by sunrise, she may execute him like the other suitors. Now everything depends on Turandot’s true feelings…
There could hardly be more fitting exit to Puccini’s rich musical career than Turandot. The score pulsates with creative energy and rich melodies that effortlessly play with European and Asian tropes. The Maestro’s unique style of musical characterisation makes the characters engaging and exciting, and the evocative orchestration moves the plot forward. The glorious aria ‘Nessun dorma’, an affirmation of life, hope and love, remains one of the most beloved in the operatic catalogue.