Puccini’s grand spectacle of legendary China stars Oksana Dyka and Martina Serafin in the role of the ice princess and Marcelo Álvarez as the unknown prince who must thaw her heart or die. Maria Agresta, Hei-Kyung Hong, and James Morris are among the other remarkable artists featured in this cherished Franco Zeffirelli production, led by Carlo Rizzi and Marco Armiliato.
World premiere: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, April 1926. Met and U.S. premiere: November 16, 1926. Puccini’s final opera is an epic fairy tale set in a China of legend, loosely based on a play by 18th-century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi. Featuring a most unusual score with an astounding and innovative use of chorus and orchestra, it is still recognizably Puccini, bursting with instantly appealing melody. The unenviable task of completing the opera’s final scene upon Puccini’s sudden death was left to the composer Franco Alfano. Conductor Arturo Toscanini oversaw Alfano’s contribution and led the world premiere.
Carlo Rizzi – Conductor
Marco Armiliato – Conductor
Oksana Dyka – Turandot
Martina Serafin – Turandot
Maria Agresta – Liu
Hei-Kyung Hong – Liu
Guanqun Yu – Liu
Marcelo Alvarez – Calaf
James Morris – Timur
Giorgi Kirof – Timur
Alexander Tsymbalyuk – Timur
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world’s opera companies. Franco Alfano (1875–1954) wrote nine operas, of which Cyrano de Bergerac (1936) is still occasionally performed today. The librettists for Turandot were the playwright Giuseppe Adami (1878–1946), who had previously worked with Puccini on Il Tabarro and La Rondine, and the journalist Renato Simoni (1875–1952).
Franco Zeffirelli – Production
Gil Wechsler – Lighting Designer
Franco Zeffirelli – Set Designer
Chiang Ching – Choreographer
Dada Saligeri & Anna Anni – Costume Designer
In Gozzi’s play, the original commedia dell’arte characters wandered from Italy to China and were members of the Imperial court. Their comments satirized Venetian politics and mores of the times. Puccini and his librettists dispensed with any such relevance. The China of this opera, set in “legendary times,” is a mythical land where the clash of the sexes is drawn in high relief.
The large Turandot orchestra calls for a wide variety of instruments, including alto saxophones, celesta, bass xylophone, harps, and an organ. There are several genuine Chinese themes that are integrated into the score in a suave and brilliantly original manner, including the big imperial anthem in Act II. The opera also contains moments of sheer melodic beauty in Puccini’s most lyrical vein, most notably in the tenor’s unforgettable song of triumph, “Nessun dorma!,” which opens Act III.