Turandot at Danish Royal Opera Copenhagen – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Giacomo Puccini completed by Franco Alfano|Lyrics: Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni after Carlo Gozzi and Schiller.
Worldpremière at Teatro alla Scala in Milano 1926, Swedish première: Stockholm 1927. Seen the performance: 20.10.2005 Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen
Outside the Imperial Palace in Peking a mandarin announces to the populace that Princess Turandot will marry the first man of royal blood wh0 can solve the three riddles she poses; anyone who fails in the attempt will be executed.1n the jostling crowd is the exiled King Timur of Tartary, a frail old man who is accompanied by his devoted slave girl Liu. He unexpectedly meets his son, Prince Calaf, whom he has not seen for a long time, in the crowd; they are on the run from those who have seized Timur’s throne, and are therefore in disguise. It is not difficult to deduct that Liu´s loyalty to Timur is due her unspoken love for Calaf. A Persian Prince, who has not been able to solve Turandot’s riddles, is brought to the place of execution; the compassionate crowd implore the Princess’s mercy. Calaf, indignant at such cruelty, joins the crowd; but when Turandot appears he is overwhelmed by her ravishing beauty and is determined to enrol for the test by striking the gong. In vain, the three comic fiures, the ministers Ping, Pang and Pong, try to scare him away from his dangerous undertaking; ghosts of former suitors also go unheeded, and even the executioner bearing the severed head of Persian Prince, makes no impression on him.Ignoring the pleas of Timur and Liu he strikes the gong three times.
Ping, Pang and Pong are complaining about their unpleasant duties; instead of ministers of the state they feel like servants of the executioner and they long for somebody to solve the riddles in order to bring these dreadful times to an end.
The court assembles for the impending test. Calaf Steps forward, but the Emperor Altoum, who takes a liking to him, wants to send him away so that he won’t die in vain. Turandot’s aria “Inquesta reggia” tells the story of her ancestor, the princess Lo-u Ling who was raped and murdered, and in whose memory she is sworn to be avenged on men. She has made the riddles so difficult so that no one can win her; she does not want to belong to anybody. This incites Calaf further, and Turandot poses the three questions, which to her horror he answers correctly: “hope”, “blood” and Turandot”. The crowd exults. Turandot now implores the Emperor not to surrender her to the stranger, but he refuses. Calaf then announces that he only wants her if she loves him: therefore he will once more put his head at stake for her sake. If before the next sunrise she can discover his name, he will hand himself over to the executioner. She agrees, but the Emperor and the whole court hope that she will not be successful.
Turandot has threatened a large number of people with death if they do not obtain information about the Prince’s name. Yet Calaf is confident; in the palace garden he awaits the break of day. His aria Nessun dorma” echoes the heralds decree that none shall sleep” until they have discovered his name. The three ministers appear and by every means try to tempt and bribe Calaf to reveal his name, but he only wants one thing: to own Turandot. Now Timur and Liu, who have been seen together with Calaf, are brought in; Liu, who claims she is the only one who knows the name of the Prince, is subjected to torture, but she says nothing. Turandot, who has been sent for, asks her what gives her such strength. Liu answers “Love” and as the executioner approaches to torment her once more, she kills herself with a dagger rather than reveal Calaf´s name. Everybody is deeply moved and joins the mourning procession as she is carried off.In spite of Turandot’s resistance Calaf takes her in his arms and kisses her.Humiliated and confused she admits that from the first moment she has both hated – and loved him. In rapture Calaf reveals his name. Once more his life is in her hands.
The Emperor and the court are assembled outside the palace. Calaf is brought forward and Turandot triumphantly proclaims that she knows the name of the stranger: it is “Love”! Calaf and Turandot falls into each other’s arms and a triumphant chorus ends the opera.