Giacomo Puccini

Turandot
 

Giacomo Puccini - Turandot
Éva Marton
José Carreras
Katia Ricciarelli
Vienna State Opera, Lorin Maazel, 1983

Giacomo Puccini - Turandot
Turandot-Ala Cheptini ; Calaf-Robert Nagy ; Liu-Roxana Bageac ; Conductor-Gheorghe Stanciu ; Regia-Alice Barb
Tetro lirico from Milan.

Halfway through the final act, at the premiere of dot, the music stopped, Arturo Toscanini laid down his baton, and he turned to the audience to say: “Here the Maestro laid down his pen.”
 

Suffering from cancer of the throat and finally taken off by a heart attack, Puccini had not lived to complete the score of his last opera. Throughout the readying of the libretto (which was a slow business because one of the writers was a successful dramatist engaged in his own work), and throughout the composition of the score, Puccini was querulously complaining that he might never live to finish it. Yet there is no sign of waning power in the music. It is bolder in its harmonies and orchestration than anything the composer had attempted before; there is a new mastery of choral effect; there is more dramatic power than in anything he had done for twenty years. True, there are some tiresome stretches (something much, one feels, of the philosopher-politicans Ping, Pang, and Pong); but if he had lived not only to complete the work but to revise it, it might well have achieved general popularity along with critical respect.
 

Franco Alfano, a friend of Puccini's who, twenty years before, had achieved an international reputation with his opera Resurrection, completed the score with some help from Puccini’s notes for the final duet.
 

Roles

TURANDOT

Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini with libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, based on Carlo Gozzi’s drama of the same name with some hints from Friedrich von Schiller’s adaptation of it


Princess Turandot 
The Emperor of China 
Timur,
exiled King of Tartary
Calaf, his son ( the "Unkno Prince")
Liu, a slave girl
Ping, Grand Chancellor China 
Pang, Supreme Lord of Provisions
Pong, Supreme Lord of the Imperial Kitchen
A herald 


Time: legendary    
Place: Pekin    
First performance at Milan, April 25, 1926    


 

Characters

Princess Turandot:

Soprano. The cold and cruel Princess, daughter of the Emperor Altoum, who has declared that she will marry whichever prince can give the answer to the three riddles she asks. If they fail, the penalty is death and several have already been executed. The latest victim is the Prince of Persia and she is about to supervise his execution. An Unknown Prince declares his intention of taking part in the contest, despite the pleas by his blind father Timur, the exiled King of Tartary, to desist. Even Turandot's father asks him to reconsider, feeling that enough lives have been lost already. Nothing will deter the Unknown Prince. Turandot herself explains why she has devised this trial: many thousands of years earlier her ancestress was betrayed when the city was overrun by a foreign conqueror. She died in exile of a broken heart. Turandot's intention is to avenge her unknown predecessor. She puts the first question: ‘What is the phantom that is born every night and dies every day?’ The Prince answers correctly: ‘It is that which inspires me—it is Hope’. She puts the second riddle: ‘What is it that is sometimes like a fever, yet grows cold when you die?’ Again he gives the correct answer: ‘It is Blood’. Turandot is starting to be worried—no one has got this close before to answering all riddles correctly. She puts the third question: ‘What is the ice that sets you on fire?’ The Prince hesitates, but then answers her: ‘You are the ice which sets me on fire—Turandot’. Turandot begs her father to release her from the pact she has made, but Altoum points out that her oath is sacred. The Prince gives her one last chance—she must guess his name before morning. If she succeeds, he is willing to die, but if she fails, she is his. Turandot orders the whole population to stay awake all night—no one must sleep until the Unknown Prince's identity is discovered. She has his old father, Timur, arrested and tortured to make him tell the name, but Liù declares that she alone knows the answer and she then kills herself. The Prince accuses Turandot of cruelty. He then kisses her and tells her his name—now his life is in her hands. She summons her people and addresses them: The Unknown Prince's name is—LOVE. She submits to him, all resistance gone. Aria: In questa reggia (‘In this palace’). Turandot is the most vocally ‘heroic’ of the Puccini heroines, demanding great stamina and vocal control from its exponents, who have included Claudia Muzio, Maria Jeritza, Eva Turner, Gina Cigna, Amy Shuard, Birgit Nilsson, Maria Callas, Ghena Dimitrova, Eva Marton, and Gwyneth Jones. Created (1926) by Rosa Raisa. 

Maria Callas. In questa reggia
1957

Montserrat Caballé - In Questa Reggia
1977

Dame Joan Sutherland. In questa reggia
1972

In questa Reggia - Eva Marton
1988

Timur:
Bass. The blind exiled King of Tartary, father of Calaf (the Unknown Prince, who is to attempt to answer Turandot's three riddles). He has fled, aided only by the slave-girl Liù, and thought his son to be dead until he saw him in the crowd. Fearful that Calaf will be killed if his identity is known, Timur is determined to keep it a secret. He begs Calaf not to take part in Turandot's dangerous competition. Timur is arrested by Turandot's guards, who try to make him reveal the Unknown Prince's name. Created ( 1926 ) by Carlo Walter.

Calaf:

Tenor. Son of the Tartar King Timur. He sees Princess Turandot when she has come to witness the execution of a Persian prince who has failed to answer her three riddles—the penalty for failure is death. The prize for the prince who succeeds is Turandot's hand in marriage. Calaf falls in love with Turandot as soon as he sees her and is determined to win her. Because he fears for his life from his father's enemies, Calaf announces himself as the Unknown Prince and strikes the gong to indicate his intention of taking part in the contest. His father and the slave‐girl Liù beg him to desist, but he will not be deterred. He answers the first two riddles put to him by Turandot. She asks the third question: ‘What is the ice that sets you on fire?’. He answers: ‘Turandot’. Now that he has won, Turandot is anxious to be released from the obligation to marry him. He offers her one last chance—she must before morning discover his name. If she succeeds, he is prepared to die. If she fails, she is his. He knows that only he will eventually reveal his name to her. He refuses bribes from her ministers and even threats leave him unmoved. His only concern is when he sees his blind father, who was seen speaking to Calaf, arrested and threatened by Turandot with torture. However, Liù intervenes, telling everyone that she alone knows the answer, and then killing herself with a dagger. Calaf blames Turandot for the slave‐girl's death, and then kisses the princess. She responds to his kiss, overcoming her coldness. He tells her his name—now his life is in her hands. The crowds assemble and Turandot addresses them—the Unknown Prince's name is Love. Arias: Non piangere, Liù (‘Do not weep, Liù’); Nessun dorma (‘None shall sleep’). This is the last of Puccini's great tenor roles and all the famous Italianate tenors have sung it, including Giovanni Martinelli, Richard Tauber, Giacomo Lauri‐Volpi, James McCracken, Franco Corelli, Mario del Monaco, Jussi Björling, José Carreras, and Plácido Domingo. The lovely aria Nessun dorma became world‐famous even to those who had never heard an opera in their lives, when it was recorded by Luciano Pavarotti as the theme song for the football World Cup in Italy in 1990. Created (1926) by Miguel Fleta.

Turandot "Nessun dorma" - Franco Corelli
1962

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI: Nessun dorma!

NESSUN DORMA - MARIO DEL MONACO

"Nessun dorma" - Plácido Domingo

Liu:

Soprano. A slavegirl in the employ of the blind King Timur and his son Calaf (now the Unknown Prince), with whom she is secretly in love. When Timur is overthrown and exiled, she goes with him, caring for him and acting as his escort. They meet Calaf, whom they feared dead. He asks Liù why she is so kind to his father, and she replies that it is because Calaf once smiled at her. She and Timur are arrested by Turandot's guards, who try to make the old man reveal the name of the Unknown Prince. Frightened that Timur will be injured by the guards, Liù tells them that she is the only one who knows the identity of the Unknown Prince. She is tortured but they cannot make her tell them the answer. Turandot calls for the executioner, but Liù snatches a dagger from a soldier and kills herself. Followed by the heartbroken Timur, her body is carried away by the crowd. (The funeral music for Liù is the last Puccini wrote, and it is here that, at the première, Toscanini laid down his baton.) Arias: Signore, ascolta! (‘My lord, hear me!’); Tu, che di gel sei cinta (‘You who are girdled with ice’). The character of the gentle, faithful Liù, is in marked contrast to the icemaiden Turandot and attracts lyric sopranos as Turandot appeals to dramatic singers. Liù has two beautiful arias, and several German singers, including Lotte Schöne and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, sang the role both on stage and on record (Schwarzkopf recording it with Maria Callas in the title role). Other exponents include Mafalda Favero (who sang Liù to Eva Turner's Turandot and was also a famous Manon Lescaut), Magda Olivero, Raina Kabaivanska, Anna Moffo, Cynthia Haymon, and Yoko Watanabe. Created (1926) by Maria Zamboni. 

Anna Netrebko - Turandot: "Tu, che di gel sei cinta" 

Ping:

Baritone. One of the three Masks, Emperor Altoum's ministers. He is Grand Chancellor of China. Created (1926) by Giacomo Rimini.

 

Pang:

Tenor. One of the three Ministers of the Emperor Altoum (the Three Masks), he is Supreme Lord of Provisions. Created (1926) by Emilio Venturini.
 

Pong:

Tenor. One of Emperor Altoum's Ministers (the three Masks). He is Supreme Lord of the Imperial Kitchen. Created (1926) by Giuseppe Nessi.
 

Synopsis

ACT I

In legendary times, in the city of Pekin, there dwelt the Princess Turandot. She was to be won only by a royal suitor who could answer three riddles. If he failed, he was to be executed.
 

When the opera opens, the Prince of Persia, having failed to answer the three questions, is about to be executed. He is to die at moonrise, and the excited crowd is calling for his death. In the melee an old man is knocked down and then rescued by a young man—the Unknown Prince. The old man is Timur, once King of the Tartars, and the young man is his son, Calaf, whom the King had believed lost since a disastrous battle. The King has been attended in his wanderings by a young slave girl, Lib, who helps the old King because she has been grateful to Calaf since the day that he once smiled at her in his palace.

As the moon begins to rise, the mob has- a change of heart and demands pardon for the gallant young Prince of Persia. But Turandot appears in all her cold regal beauty and silently gives the sign for his execution. The crowd follows the death procession.
 

Calaf, having now seen Turandot, is madly in love with her. He is warned repeatedly not to try the three riddles which have caused so many deaths. Timur asks him to refrain; Liu begs him not to attempt the enigmas; and so do the three ministers, Ping, Pang, and Pong. Calaf's answer to Liu is the sympathetic aria Non piangere, Liu - " Do not weep, Liu." But nothing can persuade him. As the act closes, he strikes the great gong before the palace, and calls out Turandot’s name to signify the arrival of one more suitor for her hand.
 

Puccini: "Turandot"

Conductor................Leopold Stokowski

Turandot..................Birgit Nilsson
Calàf........................Franco Corelli
Liù...........................Anna Moffo
Timur.......................Bonaldo Giaiotti
Ping.........................Frank Guarrera
Pang........................Robert Nagy
Pong........................Charles Anthony
Emperor Altoum......Alessio De Paolis
Mandarin.................Calvin Marsh
Prince of Persia......Edilio Ferraro
Servant....................Thomas Russell
Servant....................Craig Crosson
Servant....................Robert Bishop
Executioner.............Howard Sayette
Executioner.............Wally Adams
Executioner.............William Burdick

The Metropolian Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Metropolitan Opera House, New York
March 4th, 1961

ACT II
 

In an introductory scene three ministers of the court at Pekin philosophize. They are Ping (the Grand Chancellor), Pang (Supreme Lord of Provisions), and Pong (Supreme Lord of the Kitchen), and they are based on stock figures from the commedia dell’ arte. Their commentary is on the trouble caused by Turandot’s dangerous game of riddles and on the charms of the quiet life in the homes they came from.
 

The curtains are drawn to show the full court assembled, and the Emperor, echoing the ministers’ sentiments, asks Calaf to retire from the contest. Naturally, he refuses. The Princess herself now warns Calaf in her turn. She explains the reason for the game: it is designed to avenge an ancient ancestress who had been captured by an enemy and who had died in exile. Turandot warns Calaf once more; but at the close of the duet their voices join in agreeing on a brutally brief summary of the rules: the riddles are three in number; the life to be paid is but one.
 

Thereupon the riddles are propounded and answered:
 

Question: What phantom is bom every night and dies the next day?
 

Answer (very prompt): Hope.
 

Question: Whiat blazes like a fever when you think of great deeds but grows cold in death?
 

Answer (almost as prompt): Blood.

(The crowd encourages Calaf before Turandot silences them and poses the third riddle.)
 

Question: What is the ice that sets you on fire?

Answer (given after considerable hesitation and some taunts from the Princess): Turandot! 

The crowd is delighted that the young Prince has correctly answered the fateful riddles, but Turandot is not. She begs the Emperor to be let off the indignity of marrying a foreigner, but he answers that his oath is not to be violated. Calaf, however, is not only in love; he is magnanimous as well. He proposes that Turandot be relieved of this fate and that his own life be given up if she can answer, by the next morning, but a single riddle-his name.

 

 "TURANDOT" -  Giacomo Puccini
Joan Sutherland - Turandot
Luciano Pavarotti - Calf
Montserrat Caballé - Liu
Nicolai Ghiaurov - Timur
Zubin Mehta - Conductor
London Philharmonic Orchestra
1972

Act III

Once again, as in Act I, we are in the gardens before the walls of Pekin. The herald explains that no one must sleep in Pekin that night before the name of the Unknown Prince is discovered: the penalty is death. Rather pleased than otherwise, Calaf sings his aria Nessun dorma - “No one must sleep.” He is confident that he alone will be in a position to reveal his name, and that Turandot shall be his bride.
 

The three gabby ministers offer Calaf all sorts of inducements to tell them his name, including a guaranteed safe-exit visa from China. He is not interested.
 

Now Timur and Liu are roughly brought in by the guards. As they have been seen talking to Calaf, they must know his name. Liii boldly claims that she is the only one who knows it, and cruel torture is at once applied; but in vain. Turandot, coming on the scene, asks what gives the girl such powers of resistance. It is love, she says, and in the aria Tu, che di gel sei cinta - “You who are encircled by ice” - she prophesies that one day Turandot will love Calaf. At the close of the aria she seizes a dagger from a soldier, and, fearful that she may break under further torture, stabs herself to death. Timur bursts out in anger, but he and the body of Liu are carried out by the crowd, and Turandot is left alone with the Unknown Prince.
 

It was from this point on that Alfano had to complete the work of Puccini.
 

The Unknown Prince upbraids Turandot, and then suddenly takes her in his arms. The ice of which Liu had sung is melted; Turandot weeps; and she begs Calaf to leave her, his secret unrevealed. But he knows now that she loves him, and, venturing all, he tells her his name and, so doing, offers her his life.
 

Once more the scene is swiftly changed to the court as trumpets sound. Turandot speaks before them all. She has learned the stranger’s name, she says, and it is Love.
 

Puccini - Turandot
Turandot: Montserrat Caballé.
Calaf: Luciano Pavarotti.
Liù: Leona Mitchell.
Timur: Giorgio Tozzi.
L'imperatore: Raymond Manton.
Ping: Dale Duesing.
Pang: Rémy Corazza.
Pong: Joseph Frank.
Un Mandarino: Aldo Bramante.
Tre Principesse: Pamela South, Carol Vaness, Gwendolyn Jones.
Conductor: Riccardo Chailly.
San Francisco. November 4, 1977.