by Giacomo Puccini
DECEMBER 5 – JANUARY 27
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
Turandot Opera Overview
Turandot, Puccini’s final opera and one of the biggest blockbusters in the repertoire, transports us to a fantasy of ancient China. There the regal, forbidding Princess Turandot poses three riddles to each prince who wishes to win her — but anyone who fails to answer correctly is executed. Prince Calaf does answer correctly, and he declares that he’s willing to die if Turandot finds out his name by dawn. The plot unfolds to music of extraordinary brilliance, including “Nessun dorma,” the most popular of all Italian tenor arias!
“A Ryan Opera Center breakout star, [Amber Wagner] produced a gleaming, ample and effortless sound that also was warm and womanly when it needed to be.”
– Chicago Tribune
– Chicago Tribune
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Photo: Andrew Cioffi
Turandot Opera Resources
Join us in the theater one hour before the curtain rises for a free, 30-minute preview talk about the opera. Learn more about pre-opera talks.
The regal, forbidding Princess Turandot poses three riddles to each prince who wishes to win her — but anyone who fails to answer correctly is executed. Heads roll as suitor after suitor are unable to pass the test until Prince Calaf answers all three correctly. Princess Turandot is distraught that she must marry, but Prince Calaf offers a way out with a riddle of his own: she must discover his name by dawn.
Audio HighlightsGiacomo Puccini
Warner Classics recording — Nilsson, Corelli, Scotto, cond. Molinari-Pradelli. Courtesy of Warner Classics.
commentary by Sir Andrew Davis in collaboration with Jack Zimmerman
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Give your family, friends, and/or professional colleagues a stocking-stuffer to knock their socks off — tickets to Turandot, or, even better, a package of seats to several operas and special events in the 2017/18 Season.
Giacomo Puccini’s glorious final opera, Turandot, opens in an extravagant production not previously seen on Lyric’s stage. It showcases the composer’s magnificent melodic outpourings and reveals Puccini at his peak as a creator of exotically beautiful orchestration.
In the music (including the world’s favorite tenor aria, “Nessun dorma”), sets and costumes, and the singing, Puccini’s Turandot is truly spectacular!
Music for Turandot provided by through generous arrangement with Warner Classics, Official Education and Promotion Music Provider for Lyric Opera of Chicago.
© 2017/18 Lyric Opera Commentaries Original sound recordings of musical excerpts used by permission of Warner Music Group. All rights reserved. Recording & Production services provided by Mark Travis.
Lyric Opera Commentaries are sponsored by the Patrick G. and Shirley Welsh Ryan Foundation in memory of their parents.
Photos: Reed Hummell/Nashville Opera, Karen Almond/Dallas Opera
TIME: Legendary antiquity
The people of Beijing hear a mandarin recite Princess Turandot’s decree: she will marry only the nobleman who can correctly answer three riddles. All who fail will be executed. The latest unsuccessful candidate, the Prince of Persia, will die this very day when the moon rises. It is now evening, and the excited crowd is eager to wake Pu-Tin-Pao, the executioner. Many people are nearly trampled, including Timur, the exiled king of Tartary. A young man rushes to him – his son, Calaf, who embraces the old man joyfully. Timur explains that Liù, the slave who is accompanying him, has been his guide and support. When Calaf asks why she chose to share his father’s suffering, Liù answers that it’s because the prince once smiled at her.
Pu-Tin-Pao’s assistants prepare for the execution, and children lead in the procession. When the crowd sees the Prince of Persia, its scorn turns to pity. When Turandot appears, her beauty dazzles Calaf. Once she signals to proceed with the execution, the Prince of Persia is heard crying her name, but his voice cuts off: the execution has taken place.
Despite the gruesome scene, Calaf is now obsessed with Turandot. He is about to strike the gong – the signal that a new suitor is ready to meet his fate – when Ping, Pang, and Pong confront him. These three ministers urge Calaf to return to his own country. Turandot’s handmaidens insist on silence, since she is sleeping.
Timur and Liù plead with Calaf to turn away from this dangerous passion. The prince begs Liù to remain with his father, no matter what happens. Ignoring everyone’s protests, Calaf strikes the gong.
Scene 1. Ping, Pang, and Pong prepare for what may be a wedding or a funeral, depending on Calaf’s success or failure. Life was always smooth in China, they reflect, until the birth of Turandot. Since then, many unlucky suitors have lost their lives. Each minister longs to leave Beijing and enjoy a quieter existence. They ruminate on how wonderful it would be if love finally conquered Turandot. All three depart, since the ceremony of the riddles is about to begin.
Scene 2. The crowd cheers the arrival of the ministers and wise men. When Calaf appears, he is addressed by Turandot’s father, Emperor Altoum, who cannot persuade the prince to abandon his desire to win Turandot. The mandarin again summarizes the law regarding Turandot’s marriage. When she finally appears, she reveals that she cannot forget the story of her ancestor, Princess Lo-u-Ling: many years before, a conqueror of China dragged Lo-u-Ling from the palace and killed her. Turandot now will not let herself to be possessed by any man.
The princess poses her three riddles, and each time Calaf answers correctly. When the crowd hears the third answer, it bursts with joy. Turandot implores her father not to yield her to the unknown prince, but Altoum insists that the law is sacred. Calaf now offers the princess a bargain: If Turandot can learn his name before dawn, he will release her and give up his life. If she is unsuccessful, she will have no choice but to belong to him.
Scene 1. Turandot’s heralds proclaim that no one may sleep that night; the unknown stranger’s name must be revealed by morning. Alone in the palace garden, the prince repeats, “No one may sleep” and looks forward to the dawn, when Turandot will be his. The ministers offer him beautiful women, sparkling gems, and fabulous adventures, if he will leave Beijing. They are concerned for their own lives, since no one knows where Turandot may strike in her desperation to learn the stranger’s name.
City guards drag in Timur and Liù, whom they apprehended near the city walls. The crowd gathers before Turandot suddenly appears. She orders Timur to speak, and the guards are about to torture him when Liù declares that she alone knows the prince’s name and that she will keep it a secret. When Turandot orders that she be tortured, the guards twist her arms as Ping repeatedly demands the name, but she refuses to reveal it. When Turandot asks what gives her such strength, Liù answers that it is love. Before dawn, she says, her eyes will close forever and Turandot will love the prince. Seizing a dagger from a soldier, Liù stabs herself and falls
lifeless. The stunned crowd carries her body away, accompanied by the heartbroken Timur, and leaving Turandot alone with Calaf.
Furious at her coldness, the prince tears away the veil covering Turandot’s face. Ignoring her insistence that he not touch her, he kisses her passionately. Overwhelmed by new feelings, Turandot confesses that she is weeping her first tears. She begs the prince to leave her, taking his mystery with him, but he declares that he will now give her both his name and his life: he is Calaf, son of Timur. The ecstatic Turandot commands that he appear before the people with her.
Scene 2. Before her father and the people of Beijing, Turandot declares that she now knows the stranger’s name: “His name is Love!” Calaf ascends the staircase to embrace Turandot as the crowd joyfully sings love’s praises.