By Giacomo Puccini
Turandot is a three act opera by Giacomo Puccini. The libretto was by Adami and Simoni.
Although Puccini’s initial interest was based on his reading of Friedrich Schiller’s play, his work is more closely based on a text by Carlo Gozzi.
Sadly Puccini died of throat cancer before the work was finished and the task of finishing the piece was left to Franco Alfano, a student of Puccini’s.
The first performance took place at la Scala, Milan on April 25th 1926, conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
At the first performance Toscanini laid down his baton after the death of Lui and said “this is where the pen fell from the hand of Puccini”.
There is a myth that the performance that night was not completed, however, this is incorrect. Maestro Toscanini did pick up the baton and completed the performance using the ending penned by Puccini's student Alfano.
While some will argue that Turandot is a flawed work, there is no doubt it has many moments of sheer brilliance and its enduring popularity with the public ensures it's continuing place in the repertoires of most opera companies.
Two arias that stand out is the stentorian “In Questa Reggia” sung soon after the very theatrical entrance of the Princess, and “Nessun Dorma” – the aria of the unknown Prince familiar the world over after it featured in the Three Tenor’s Concert featuring Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti.
It is often conjectured that the slave girl, Lui whom Puccini drew more musically heart wrenching (in his inimitable style), than the other characters, complete with two scene stealing arias, had actually painted himself into a theatrical corner that he was having great difficulty getting out of.
After her love suicide, the very point where Puccini himself died, the notes he left were sketchy and unclear as to how he intended to complete the work.
For all that, the sumptuous themes throughout this opera and vocal challenges keep Turandot high on the list of favourites the world over.
Its exotic tones, clever use of gongs in the score and sheer theatricality have kept aficionados wondering for years how it would have been had Puccini himself finished the work.
Today it is regularly performed with the short Alfano ending.
More information on the Opera Arts Turandot Poster here.