The State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
The Persian fairy-tale Turandot from the dervish Mokles’s 17th-century collection The One Thousand and One Nights has inspired numerous poets and composers. Giacomo Puccini worked on Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni’s libretto, based on Carlo Gozzi’s play, in the final years of his life, when he was fighting cancer of the larynx. Just as in the case of Madama Butterfly, he diligently strove to gain thorough knowledge of the culture and songs of an exotic, faraway land (in this case China). Puccini died before he managed to complete the opera: the task was undertaken by his friend and pupil Franco Alfano, who drew upon the 36 pages of sketches left by the composer.
The opera was premiered on 25 April 1926 at Milan’s La Scala, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who paid tribute to the late Puccini when in Act 3, after the words “Liu, poesia!”, he laid down his baton, turned to the audience and announced: “Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died”. Alfano’s finale was only included in the next performance. The cruel and beautiful Princess Turandot tests her wooers with riddles and when they fail they are duly executed. Only Prince Calaf succeeds, and his love ultimately overwhelms Turandot’s coldness.
The opera is staged in Italian original version. Czech and English surtitles are used in the performance.
Approximate running time, including intermissions:
2 hours,40 minutes, two 20-minute intermissions.
Photo: Dan Jäger
Premiere: September 15, 1995