"Turandot" is an
operain three acts by Giacomo Puccini, set to a librettoin Italian by Giuseppe Adamiand Renato Simoni. Though Puccini's first interest in the subject was based on his reading of Friedrich Schiller's [ [http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/s#a289 List of Friedrich Schiller's works] ] adaptation of the play, his work is most nearly based on the earlier text "Turandot" by Carlo Gozzi. Turandot was unfinished by the time of Puccini's death, and was later completed by Franco Alfano. The first performance was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milanon 25 April 1926, and conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This performance included only Puccini's music and not Alfano's additions.
Origin of the name
Turandot is a Persian word and name meaning "the daughter of
Turan", Turan being a region of Central Asiawhich used to be part of the Persian Empire. In Persian, the fairy tale is known as "Turandokht", with "dokht" being a contraction for "dokhtar" (meaning "daughter"), and both the "kh" and "t" are clearly pronounced. However, according to Puccini scholar Patrick Vincent Casali, the final "t" should not be sounded in the pronunciation of the opera's name or when referring to the title character, as Puccini never pronounced it (according to Rosa Raisa, the first singer to play the title role) and, as Casali notes, the musical setting of many of Calaf's intonations of the name makes sounding the final "t" all but impossible. [For a discussion about the pronunciation of the name, "cf." cite journal
author = Patrick Vincent Casali
year = 1997
title = The Pronunciation of Turandot: Puccini's Last Enigma
journal = Opera Quarterly
volume = 13
issue = 4
pages = 77–91
id = ISSN|0736-0053 / Online ISSN|1476-2870
url = http://oq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/13/4/77/ ]
The story of Turandot was taken from the Persian collection of stories called "
The Book of One Thousand and One Days"Fact|date=September 2008 or " Hezar o-yek shab" (1722 French translation " Les Mille et un jours" by Francois Petis de la Croix— not to be confused with its sister work " The Book of One Thousand and One Nights"), where the character of "Turandokht" as a cold Chinese princess was found.Fact|date=September 2008 But this story about a Chinese princess bears much resemblance to the Persian poet Nizami's story about a Russian princess being pursued by the Sassanidking Behram.Fact|date=September 2008 The story of Turandokht is one of the best known from de la Croix's translation.The plot respects the classical unitiesof time, space and action.
Puccini first began working on "Turandot" in March 1920 after meeting with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. He began composition in January 1921. By March 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 10he was diagnosed with throat cancerand on November 24went to Brussels, Belgiumfor treatment. There he underwent a new and experimental radiation therapy treatment. Puccini and his wife never knew how serious the cancer was, as the news was only revealed to his son. He died of complications on November 29 1924. He left behind 36 pages of sketches on 23 sheets for the end of "Turandot", together with instructions that Riccardo Zandonaishould finish the opera. Puccini's son Tonio objected, and eventually Franco Alfanowas chosen to flesh out the sketches. Alfano provided a first version of the ending with a few passages of his own, and even a few sentences added to the libretto which was not considered complete even by Puccini himself. After the severe criticisms by editor Ricordiand the conductor Arturo Toscanini, he was forced to write a second, strictly censored version that followed Puccini's sketches more 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. Ricordi's real concern was not the quality of Alfano's work, but that he wanted the end of "Turandot" to sound as if it had been written by Puccini, and Alfano's editing had to be seamless. Of this version, about three minutes were cut for performance by Toscanini and it is this shortened version that is usually performed.
The debate over which version of the ending is better is still open, Ashbrook, W. and Powers, H. "Puccini's Turandot: The End of the Great Tradition". Princeton University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-691-02712-9] but the consensus generally tends towards Alfano's first score. Scrutiny of the sketches, which Ricordi later allowed scholars to analyze (and sometimes publish), showed how Alfano actually didn't even try to use most of the short sketches on the sheets, with the exception of those with an obvious placement and one short theme he freely transformed, and used for the sake of stylistic continuity. From 1976 to 1988 the American composer Janet Maguire, convinced that the whole ending is coded in the sketches left by Puccini, composed a new ending, but this has never been performed. In 2001
Luciano Beriomade a new sanctioned completion, using Puccini's sketches but also expanding the musical language, but this has received a mixed reception.
The première of "Turandot" was at
La Scala, Milan, on Sunday April 25 1926, 1 year and 5 months after Puccini's death. It was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
In the middle of Act III, two measures after the words "Liù, poesia!", the orchestra rested. Toscanini stopped and laid down his baton. He turned to the audience and announced: "Qui finisce l'opera, perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died"). The curtain was lowered slowly. [These are the words reported by
Eugenio Gara, who was present at the prima, in
year = 1958
others = edited by Eugenio Gara
title = Carteggi Pucciniani
publisher = Ricordi
location = Milan
id = ISBN 88-7592-134-2E. Gara is in turn cited in
author = William Ashbrook
year = 1984
title = Turandot and Its Posthumous Prima
journal = Opera Quarterly
volume = 2
issue = 3
pages = 126–132
id = ISSN|0736-0053 / Online ISSN|1476-2870
url = http://oq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/2/3/126
doi = 10.1093/oq/2.3.126
The quotation however appears to be based on memory, and differs in different sources. According to a 1974 interview with another eyewitness, Toscanini's words were: "Qui termina la rappresentazione perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the performance finishes because at this point the maestro died") and the English translation of this interview seems to say "Here the Maestro finished". The Wikipedia article on the life of Puccini notes that: Some record that he said, more poetically, “Here the Maestro laid down his pen”. ]
(As discussed in Ashbrook and Powers , the music for Liù's death was not in fact Puccini's final composition, but had been orchestrated some nine months earlier). Later performances included Alfano's ending. Despite this, "Turandot" is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire and it appears as number twelve on
Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America. [" [http://www.operaamerica.org/Content/Audiences/Programs/Cornerstones/index.shtml "Top 20 list of most-performed operas] ". Opera America. Retrieved on September 28, 2008.]
For many years, the Government of the
People's Republic of Chinaforbade performance of "Turandot" because they said it portrayed China and the Chinese unfavorably.Fact|date=September 2008 In the late 1990s they relented, and in September 1998 the opera was performed for eight nights at the Forbidden City, complete with opulent sets and soldiers from the People's Liberation Armyas extras. It was an international collaboration, with director Zhang Yimouas choreographerand Zubin Mehtaas conductor. The singing roles saw Giovanna Casollaas Princess Turandot, Sergej Larinas Calàf, and Barbara Frittolias Liù.
As with "
Madama Butterfly", Puccini strove for a semblance of Asian authenticity (at least to western ears) by using music from the region in question. Up to eight of the themes used in "Turandot" appear to be based on traditional Chinese music, and the melody of a Chinese song named "Mò Li Hūa (茉莉花)", or "Jasmine", is included as a motif for the princess. [See above, "Ashbrook and Powers, Chapter 4"]
China:Time: Legendary times
"In front of the imperial palace"
A Mandarin announces the law of the land ( "Popolo di Pekino!" - "Any man who desires to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles. If he fails, he will be beheaded" ). The Prince of Persia has failed and is to be beheaded at moonrise. As the crowd surges towards the gates of the palace, the imperial guards brutally repulse them, a blind old man is pushed to the ground. His slave-girl, Liù, cries 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 is overjoyed seeing his father alive but urges him not to speak his name because he fears the Chinese rulers who have conquered Tartary. Timur tells his son that of all his servants, only Liù has remained faithful to him. When the Prince asks her why, she tells him that once, long ago in the palace, he smiled upon her (The crowd, Liù, Prince of Tartary, Timur: "Indietro, cani!" ).
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. The young Prince is so handsome that the crowd and the Prince of Tartary are moved to compassion and call on Turandot to spare his life (The crowd, Prince of Tartary : "O giovinetto!" ). She appears, and with a single imperious gesture orders the execution to continue. The Prince of Tartary, who has never seen Turandot before, falls immediately in love. As he cries out her name with joy, the crowd screams in horror: The Prince of Persia has been beheaded.
The Prince of Tartary is dazzled by Turandot's beauty. He is about to rush towards the gong and strike it three times; the symbolic gesture of whoever wishes to marry Turandot when the ministers Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and urge him cynically ( "Fermo, che fai?" ) not to lose his head for Turandot but to go back to his own country. Timur urges his son to desist, and Liù, who is secretly in love with the Prince, pleads with him ( "
Signore, ascolta!" - "My lord, listen!" ) not to attempt the riddles. Liù's words touch his heart. The Prince tells Liù to make exile more bearable and never to abandon his father if the Prince fails to answer the riddles ( " Non piangere, Liù" - "Don't cry, Liù" ) . The three ministers, Timur and Liù try one last time to hold the Prince ( "Ah! Per l'ultima volta!" ) but he refuses to listen.
He calls Turandot's name three times, and each time Liù, Timur and the ministers reply, "Death!", and the crowd gasp ("Ah!"). Rushing to the gong that hangs in front of the palace, he strikes it three times, declaring himself a suitor. From the palace balcony, Turandot accepts the challenge, as Ping, Pang and Pong laugh at the prince's foolishness.
"Scene 1: A pavilion in the imperial palace. Before sunrise"
Ping, Pang, and Pong lament their place as ministers, poring over palace documents and presiding over endless rituals. They prepare themselves for either a wedding or a funeral (Ping, Pang, Pong: "Ola, Pang!" ) . Ping suddenly longs for his country house in
Honan, with its small lake surrounded by bamboo. Pong remembers his grove of forests near Tsiang, and Pang recalls his gardens near Kiu. The three share fond memories of life away from the palace (Ping, Pang, Pong: "Ho una casa nell'Honan" ) but are shaken back to the realities of Turandot's bloody reign. They continually accompany young men to death and recall their ghastly fate. As the palace trumpet sounds, the ministers ready themselves for another spectacle as they await the entrance of the Emperor.
"Scene 2: The courtyard of the palace. Sunrise"
The Emperor Altoum, father of Turandot, sits on his grand throne in his palace. He urges the Prince to withdraw his challenge but the Prince refuses (Altoum, the Prince: "Un giuramento atroce" ). Turandot enters and explains ( "
In questa reggia" ) that her ancestress of millennia past, Princess Lo-u-Ling, reigned over her kingdom "in silence and joy, resisting the harsh domination of men" until she was ravished and murdered by an invading foreign prince. Lo-u-Ling now lives again in Turandot and out of revenge she has sworn never to let any man possess her. She warns the Prince to withdraw, but again he refuses. The Princess presents her first riddle ( "Straniero, ascolta!" ) "What is born each night and dies each dawn?" The Prince correctly replies, "Hope."
The Princess, unnerved, presents her second riddle ( "Guizza al pari di fiamma" ) "What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?" The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, "Blood". Turandot is shaken. The crowd cheers the Prince, provoking Turandot's anger. She presents her third riddle ( "Gelo che ti da foco" ) "What is like ice, but burns like fire?" As the prince thinks, Turandot taunts him. Suddenly he cries out victory and announces, "Turandot!"
The crowd cheers for the triumphant Prince. Turandot throws herself at her father's feet and pleads with 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 (Turandot, Altoum, the Prince: "Figlio del cielo" ). 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 before sunrise, and at sunrise, I will die" ( "Tre enigmi m'hai proposto" ). Turandot accepts. The Emperor declares that he hopes to call the Prince his son come sunrise.
"Scene 1: The palace gardens. Night"
In the distance, heralds call out Turandot's command ( "Cosi comanda Turandot" - "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 waits for dawn and anticipates his victory by singing "Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep! Even you, O Princess" ( "
Nessun dorma" ).
Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and offer the Prince women and riches if he will only give up Turandot ( "Tu che guardi le stelle" ), but he refuses. A group of soldiers then drag in Timur and Liù. They have been seen speaking to the Prince, so they must know his name. Turandot enters and orders Timur and Liù to speak. The Prince feigns ignorance, saying they know nothing. Liù 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, she is tortured. Turandot is clearly taken by Liù's resolve and asks her who put so much strength in her heart. Liù answers "Princess, Love!". Turandot demands that Ping tear the Prince's name from Liù, and he orders her to be tortured further. Liù counters Turandot ( "
Tu che di gel sei cinta" - "You who are begirdled by ice" ), saying that she too shall learn love. Having spoken, Liù 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 be told about Liù's death, and he cries out in anguish. Timur warns that the gods will be offended by this outrage, and the crowd is subdued with shame and fear. The grieving Timur and the crowd follow Liù's body as it is carried away. Everybody departs leaving the Prince and Turandot. He reproaches Turandot for her cruelty (The Prince, Turandot: "Principessa di morte" ) and then takes her in his arms and kisses her in spite of her resistance. Here Puccini's work ends. The remainder of the music was completed by Franco Alfano. [ [http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=16426 A later attempt at completing the opera was made, with the co-operation of the publishers, Ricordi, in 2002 by Luciano Berio] ]
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. She asks him to ask for nothing more and to leave, taking his mystery with him. The Prince however, reveals his name, "Calàf, son of Timur" and places his life in Turandot's hands. She can now destroy him if she wants (Turandot, Calàf: "Del primo pianto" ).
"Scene 2: The courtyard of the palace. Dawn"
Turandot and Calàf approach the Emperor's throne. She declares that she knows the Prince's name: "It is ... love!" ( "Diecimila anni al nostro Imperatore!" ). The crowd cheers and acclaims the two lovers ( "O sole! Vita! Eternita" ).
Whilst long recognised as the most tonally adventurous of his operas, [ [http://www.bpmonline.org.uk/bpm4-turandot.html Jonathan Christian Petty and Marshall Tuttle, "Tonal Psychology in Puccini's "Turandot" ", Center for Korean Studies, University of California, Berkeley and Langston University, 2001] ] Turandot has also been considered as at best a flawed masterpiece, and some critics have been unreservedly hostile. Thus
Joseph Kermanstates: :"Nobody would deny that dramatic potential can be found in this tale. Puccini, however, did not find it; his music does nothing to rationalize the legend or illuminate the characters... [Joseph Kerman, "Opera As Drama", New York: Knopf, 1956 (revised edition, pp. 205/206. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, ISBN 0520062744)] " and he apparently considered the opera as a whole "depraved". Some of this criticism is possibly due to the standard Alfano ending (Alfano II), in which Liù's death is followed almost immediately by Calaf's 'rough wooing' of Turandot, and the 'bombastic' end to the opera. The Berio version is considered to overcome some of these criticisms, but critics such as Tanner have failed to be wholly convinced by the new ending, noting that the criticism by the Puccini advocate Julian Buddenstill applies: :"Nothing in the text of the final duet suggests that Calaf's love for Turandot amounts to anything more than a physical obsession: nor can the ingenuities of Simoni and Adami's text for 'Del primo pianto' convince us that the Princess's submission is any less hormonal. [Tanner, Michael. " [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3724/is_200303/ai_n9232503 Hollow swan-song] ". "The Spectator", March 22, 2003.] "
Ashbrook and Powers consider it was an appreciation of this problem, which they state as an inadequate buildup for Turandot's change of heart combined with an overly successful treatment of the secondary character' (by which they mean Liù), which contributed to Puccini's inability to complete the opera.
Instrumentation for "Turandot" is:
* bass trombones
Note: "Cat:" is short for catalogue number by the label company
* [http://www.geocities.com/jrpsong/tur.html Recordings of Turandot]
* [http://archive.operainfo.org/broadcast/operaBackground.cgi?id=27&language=1 Background on the opera's origins and melodies]
* [http://operainfo.org/broadcast/operaStory.cgi?id=27&language=1 Story & Music (and photos)] available from the Metropolitan Opera International Radio Broadcast Information Center (2006-07 Broadcast)
* [http://www.operamania.com/disc/turandot.htm Recommended discography] In Spanish.
* [http://www.operatoday.com/content/2006/10/puccini_turando_2.php Opera Today - complete libretto with translations]
* [http://www.janaladylou.de/tu-che-di-gel-sei-cinta.html Tu che di gel sei cinta] - Aria of Liù (recording by
Jana Lady Lou)
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