Turandot

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Turandot is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini (which was left unfinished by Puccini at his death, and completed by Franco Alfano) to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, based on the play by Carlo Gozzi. First performance: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1926. Turandot is a Persian word meaning "the Daughter of Turan", Turan being the region of Central-Asia.

Missing image
MaiNessun.jpg
Citation from In questa reggia in Puccinis Turandot.
Contents

Characters

  • Principle roles
    • Princess Turandot - Soprano
    • The unknown prince, Calaf, Timur's son - Tenor
    • Li, a young slave girl - Soprano
  • Minor roles
    • Emperor Altoum - Tenor
    • Timur, deposed king of Tartary - Bass
    • Ping, the grand chancellor - Baritone
    • Pang, the general purveyor - Tenor
    • Pong, the chief cook - Tenor
    • A mandarin - Baritone
  • Other
    • Executioner - Mute
    • Prince of Persia
    • Guards, children, ghosts, officals, slaves... - Chorus

Plot

Place: Peking, China.
Time: Lengendary times.

Act I

In front of the imperial palace.

A Mandarin announces the law of the land: Any man who desires to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles. If he fails, he will be put to death. The Prince of Persia has failed, and he is to be beheaded at moonrise. As the crowd surges towards the gates of the palace, crying for blood, an old man is pushed to the ground, and his young slave-girl Li calls for help. A young man hears her cry, and recognizes the old man as his long-lost father Timur, the deposed king of Tartary. The young Prince of Tartary urges his father not to speak his name because he fears the hatred of the Chinese rulers who have conquered Tartary. Timur tells his son that of all his servants, only Li has remained faithful to him. When the Prince asks her why, she tells him that he once smiled upon her.

The moon rises, and the crowd's cries for blood turn into silence. The doomed Prince of Persia is led before the crowd on his way to execution, and the crowd's mood turns to mercy. They call on Turandot to spare the Prince. She appears, and with a single gesture orders the execution to continue. The Prince of Tartary, seeing Turandot for the first time, is enthralled by her beauty. As he cries out her name with joy, the crowd screams in horror: The Prince of Persia has been beheaded. Timur urges his son to desist. Li, who is secretly in love with the Prince, pleads with him not to attempt the riddles. The ministers Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and warn him that Turandot is unattainable. The Prince refuses to listen to them and rushes to the gong that hangs in front of the palace. Calling Turandot's name, he strikes the gong three times, thereby declaring himself a suitor. Ping, Pong, and Pang laugh, and the curtain falls.

Act II

Scene 1

A pavilion in the imperial palace. Before sunrise.

Ping, Pang, and Pong lament their place as ministers. Because of Turandot's bloody reign, they continually accompany young men to death.

Missing image
Turandotcap007.JPG
Ping, grand chancellor (Bass), Pang, grand purveyor (Tenor), and Pong, grand cook (Tenor) from Act 2 Scene 1, This is from the 2002 coproduction of the Mariinski Theatre St. Petersburg and the Festpielhaus Baden-Baden.

Scene 2

The courtyard of the palace. Sunrise.

The Emperor Altoum sits on his grand throne in his palace. Three times he urges the Prince to withdraw his challenge, and three times the Prince refuses. The Mandarin announces the beginning of the challenge. In the aria In Questa Reggia, Turandot explains that her ancestor Princess Lo-u-Ling was ravished and murdered by a foreigner, and now out of revenge she has sworn to never let any man possess her. She warns the Prince to withdraw, but again he refuses. The Princess presents her first riddle: "What is born each night and dies each dawn?" The Prince correctly replies, "Hope." The Princess, unnerved, presents her second riddle: "What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?" The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, "Blood." The Princess is shaken, but tells him that he is correct. She presents her third riddle: "What is like ice, but burns?" As the prince thinks, Turandot taunts him. Suddenly he cries out victory and answers, "Turandot!" The crowd cheers for the Prince. Turandot throws herself at the Emperor's feet and pleads him not to leave her to the Prince's mercy. The Emperor insists that an oath is sacred, and it is Turandot's duty to wed the Prince. As she cries out in anger, the Prince stops her, saying that he has a proposal for her. "You do not know my name. Bring me my name," he tells her. "Bring me my name before sunrise, and at sunrise, I will die." The Emperor declares that he hopes to call the Prince his son come sunrise, and as he exits, the curtain falls.

Missing image
Turandotcap013.JPG
Screenshot from Act 2 Scene 2, This is from the 2002 coproduction of the Mariinski Theatre St. Petersburg and the Festpielhaus Baden-Baden.

Act III

Scene 1

The palace gardens. Night.

In the distance, heralds call out Turandot's command: "This night, none shall sleep in Peking! The penalty for all will be death if the Prince's name is not discovered by morning!" The Prince, in the aria Nessun Dorma, anticipates his victory. Ping, Pong, and Pang offer the Prince women and riches if he will only give up Turandot, but he refuses. A group of soldiers drag in Timur and Li. They have been seen speaking to the Prince, so they must know his name. Turandot enters and orders Timur and Li to speak. Li declares that she alone knows the Prince's name, but she will not reveal it. Ping demands the Prince's name, and when she refuses him, she is beaten. Turandot is impressed by Li's resistance and asks her secret. Li tells her, "Love." Turandot demands that Ping tear the Prince's name from Li, and he threatens Li with death. He orders her to be tortured. Li seizes a dagger from a soldier's belt and stabs herself. As she staggers towards the Prince and falls dead, the crowd screams for her to speak the Prince's name. Since Timur is blind, he must told about Lui's death, and he cries out in anguish. Even the three ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong express remorse. The grieving Timur and the crowd follow Li's body as it is carried away, leaving Turandot and the Prince alone.

Here Puccini's work ends. The remainder of the music was completed by Franco Alfano from Puccini's sketches.

The Prince tries to convince Turandot to love him. At first she is disgusted, but after he kisses her, she feels herself turning towards passion. The Prince reveals to her his name, Calaf, and places his life in her hands.

Scene 2

The courtyard of the palace. Sunrise.

Turandot and Calaf approach the Emperor's throne. She declares that she knows the Prince's name: "His name is ... love!" As the crowd cheers, the curtain falls.

Noted arias

  • "In questa reggia" (Turandot)
  • "Del primo pianto" (Turandot)
  • "Nessun dorma" (Calaf)
  • "Signor, ascolta" (Li)

History

Puccini first began working on Turandot in March 1920 after meeting with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. He began composition in January of 1921. By March of 1924, he had completed the opera up to the final duet. However, he was unsatisfied with the text of the final duet, and did not continue until October 8, when he chose Adami's fourth version of the duet text. On October 10 he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and he died a few weeks later on November 29. He left behind thirty-six pages of sketches for the end of Turandot, together with instructions that Riccardo Zandonai should finish the opera. Puccini's son Tonio objected, and eventually Franco Alfano was chosen to flesh out the sketches. He followed Puccini's sketches very closely, to the point where he did not set some of Adami's text to music because Puccini had not indicated how he wanted it to sound.

The first performance of Turandot was at La Scala, Milan, on April 25, 1926. It was conducted by Arturo Toscanini, and the cast was:

  • Turandot - Rosa Raisa
  • The Prince - Miguel Fleta
  • Li - Maria Zamboni
  • Timur - Carlo Walter
  • Ping - Giacomo Rimini

In the middle of act three, two measures after the words, "Li, poesia!" the orchestra rested. Toscanini stopped and laid down his baton. He turned to the audience and announced, "Here ends the opera left unfinished by the Maestro, because at this point the Maestro died." The curtain was lowered slowly. Later performances included Alfano's ending.

For many years, the People's Republic of China forbade performance of Turandot because they said it portrayed China and the Chinese unfavorably. In the late 1990s they relented, and in September 1998, the opera was performed for eight nights at the Forbidden City in the People's Republic of China, complete with opulent sets and PLA soldiers as extras. It was an international collaboration, with director Zhang Yimou as choreographer and Zubin Mehta as conductor. The singing roles saw Giovanna Casolla as Princess Turandot, Sergej Larin as Calaf, and Barbara Frittoli as Li.

In 2002, Luciano Berio composed a new ending to Turandot which has received a mixed reception.

Orchestration

The orchestra consists of one piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, one English horn, two clarinets, one bass clarinet, two bassoons, one contrabassoon, four French horns, three trumpets, three trombones, one bass trombone, timpani, percussion, glockenspiel, xylophone, bass xylophone, tubular bells, celesta, two harps, organ (music), first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. Additionally, there are parts played onstage or backstage for two alto saxophones, six French horns, three trombones, one bass trombone, wooden drum, and gong.

References and external links

es:Turandot fr:Turandot it:Turandot sr:Турандот (опера) zh:图兰多

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