Recorded on 06/06/2012, uploaded on 06/06/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Among the finest of Puccini’s operas, Turandot was left incomplete at the composer’s death. The initial inspiration for the opera came from a reading of Schiller’s adaptation of the story, yet it was an earlier commedia dell’arte play by Carlo Gozzi that provided much of the material for the libretto. The libretto itself was fashioned by Guiseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, and Puccini began working on the opera in March 1920. By March 1924, Turandot was completed up through the final duet, yet a dissatisfaction with the text prevented Puccini from proceeding any further. Tragically, a mere two days after beginning work on the final duet in October, Puccini was diagnosed with throat cancer. At the end of the succeeding month, he traveled to Brussels, Belgium for an experimental radiation treatment. The treatment at first seemed effective, but Puccini succumbed to a heart attack on November 29. Likely aware of the seriousness of his condition, he left direction that Riccardo Zandonai was to complete Turandot. Despite the composer’s wishes, Franco Alfano, a former pupil of Puccini’s, was chosen instead by Puccini’s editor Giulio Ricordi. Nearly a year and a half after the composer’s death, Turandot premiered at La Scala on April 25, 1926 but without Alfano’s ending. Two measures after the words “Liù, poesia!,” the orchestra stopped playing and Toscanini, who conducted the premiere, turned to the audience and said, Qui finisce l'opera, perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died"). The following performances included the ending provided by Alfano. Turandot quickly spread to other venues throughout Europe and the Americas, and has remained a staple of the repertoire.
Set in Imperial China, the Princess Turandot is bound by imperial decree that she will only marry a man of royal blood who can correctly answer three riddles. The punishment for answering incorrectly, however, is death. Calàf, known as The Unknown Prince, answers the riddles correctly to Turandot’s great surprise. Despite the conditions being met, Turandot remains unwilling to marry and pleads with her father to be released from the decree. She is refused and Calàf offers her a way out: he will sacrifice his own life if she can guess his name. At the opening of the final Act, Turandot issues a command that the Prince’s name must be learned and anyone caught sleeping that night shall face death. Yet, she is unable to learn his name and is forced to face him the next morning. Even in her defeat, she resists him but Calàf, confident that she truly loves him, tells Turandot his name, placing his life in her hands. The two appear before the Emperor and Turandot proclaims the Prince’s name: Love.
The aria In questa reggia (“In this palace”) is sung by Turandot in Act II of the opera. She recounts the tragic fate of her ancestor of millennia past, Princess Lo-u-Ling, who was ravished and murdered by the King of the Tartars. She believes that the ancient Princess now lives within her and so seeks revenge on all men for the death of her ancestor. Hence, the three riddles have been devised which any suitor must answer correctly to win Turandot’s hand or else be put to death. The haunting and dramatic music of the aria comes at a crucial point in the opera. In her final words, Turandot warns the unknown Prince, “Straniero! Non tentar la fortuna! Gli enigmi sono tre, la morte una!” (“Stranger! Do not tempt Fortune! The riddles are three, Death is one!”) to which the Prince Calàf counters: “No,no... gli enigmi sono tre, una è la vita!” (“No, no…the riddles are three, Life is one!”). Joseph DuBose
Ooh La La Opera Presents
Recorded by Tom Barnes
c. 2009 Stephanie Piercey
We at classicalconnect.com believe that classical music is a necessity of life. It is our pleasure to be your virtual concert hall and bring you this performance.
Copyright 2008-2010 Classical Connect, LLC