Turandot, Opera by G. Puccini
Turandot is a quintessential Puccini opera: it features a controversial female lead whose conflicted emotions and extreme behaviour drive the plot forward, and it is brimful of memorable, inspired melodies. The Maestro could not finish this final opera as he succumbed to complications from throat surgery in Brussels on 29 November 1924. Even as his health was fading, however, Puccini pulled his energies to create a truly moving operatic score, as the guests of the Gran Teatro La Fenice will surely realise.
Puccini found inspiration for Turandot in Carlo Gozzi's 1762 rendition of a Central-Asian legend about a cruel princess of the same name. Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni created the Italian libretto and moved the story further east to China. Puccini created an atmospheric, impressionistic score which still transports audiences and makes their imagination run with the legendary love story.
The cruel Princess Turandot torments her suitors with riddles and executes each one who answers wrong. Prince Calaf, struck by love at first sight, rises to her challenge and answers all three of her riddles. When Turandot refuses to uphold her part of the deal, the prince counters with a riddle of his own: if she can guess his true name by sunrise, she can execute him like the others. This proposal finally warms Turandot's heart, and she declares his name is Love to give the opera a happy ending.
Puccini crafted Turandot's score so painstakingly that every solo spot reveals its character's motivations, defining traits, and true nature, like Turandot's forceful 'In questa reggia', slave girl Liù's meek and placative 'Signore, ascolta', or Prince Calaf's magnificent, life-affirming 'Nessun dorma' - one of Puccini's finest moments and easily the most recognisable tenor aria of all time.
When Puccini passed away, Franco Alfano took the task of completing Turandot based on the Maestro's sketches. The packed premiere on 25 April 1926 took place at Il Teatro alla Scala in Milan where Arturo Toscanini conducted and paid tribute to the Maestro by ending the performance at the point in Act III where Puccini had stopped. Even in truncated form, Turandot was an instant success and deservedly remains one of the most popular operatic works in history. Puccini's marvellous farewell gift comes to life once more on the stage of the Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice!