15 Jun 2009

PUCCINI: Turandot — Buenos Aires 1965

Turandot, dramma lirico in three acts.

Music composed by Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924). Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni based on Turandot, Prinzessin von China (1802), Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's adaptation of Turandotte (1762) by Carlo Gozzi.

First Performance: 25 April 1926, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Princess Turandot Soprano
The Emperor Altoum, her father Tenor
Timur, the dispossessed King of Tartary Bass
Calaf, the son of Timur Tenor
Liù, a young slave-girl Soprano
Ping, Grand Chancellor Baritone
Pang, General Purveyor Tenor
Pong, Chief Cook Tenor
A Mandarin Baritone
The Prince of Persia Silent role
The Executioner (Pu-Tin-Pao) Silent role

Setting: Peking in the distant past.


A Mandarin announces that any prince seeking to marry the Princess Turandot must first answer three riddles. If he fails, he must die. The latest suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon's rising. In the crowd is Timur, banished King of Tartary, who is reunited with his son, Calaf, who he thought died in a battle. The Prince of Persia passes on his way to the scaffold and the crowd calls upon the Princess to spare him. Turandot bids that the execution proceed. As the death cry is heard, Calaf, transfixed by the beauty of the Princess, strides towards the gong that announces a new suitor. Turandot's ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, try to discourage Calaf. Timur and Liù (who is in love with Calaf) also beg him to reconsider, but he strikes the gong and calls Turandot's name.

Ping, Pang and Pong lament Turandot's bloody reign, hoping that love will conquer her icy heart and peace will return. They think longingly of their distant country homes, but the noise of the populace gathering to hear Turandot question the new challenger brings them back to reality.

The people, eager for another execution, have gathered in the square. The Emperor asks Calaf to reconsider, but he refuses. Turandot describes how her ancestor was dishonoured and killed by a conquering prince; the cruel trial her suitors have to undergo is revenge for that crime. Turandot asks Calaf three riddles, which he answers correctly. Turandot begs her father not to give her to the stranger, but to no avail. Calaf, hoping to win her love, offers Turandot a challenge: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.

Calaf hears a proclamation: on pain of death, no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger's name. Ping, Pang and Pong try unsuccessfully to bribe him to learn his secret. As the mob threatens him, soldiers drag in Liù and Timur. Calaf tries to convince the mob that neither knows his secret. Liù declares that she alone knows but will never tell. She is tortured, but remains silent. Impressed by such endurance, Turandot asks Liù's secret: "Love" replies Liù. Fearing that she will weaken under torture Liù seizes a dagger and kills herself. The crowd, fearful of her dead spirit, forms a funeral procession. Left alone with Turandot, Calaf first reproaches her for her coldness and cruelty, then kisses her. Feeling emotion for the first time, Turandot weeps. Now sure of his victory, Calaf reveals his identity. Before the assembled crowd, Turandot announces the stranger's name: it is Love. As Calaf embraces her, the court hails the power of love and life.

[Synopsis Source: Opera Australia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the complete libretto (English translation).

Click here for the complete text of Turandot, Prinzessin von China.