Lyrical drama in three acts (five scenes)
Libretto by J. Adami and R. Simonyi
Altoom, the Chinese emperor, her father
Timur, the deposed Tatar king
The Unknown Prince (Calaf), his son
Liu, a young slave.
Ping, great counselor
Pang, the great soothsayer
Pong, the great cook
The Persian prince
The action takes place in Beijing in fairy-tale times.
HISTORY OF CREATION
The plot “Turandot” is described in the story of the 12th century Azerbaijani writer Nizami, which was included in various European collections of Persian fairy tales of the XVIII century. From there, he learned from the Italian playwright K. Gozzi for his “fairy tale for the theater” (1761).
Translating Gozzi’s play into German (1801), F. Schiller strengthened her drama, “enlarged” the characters of the characters and re-wrote the scene of the Turandot mysteries. Puccini further emphasized the dramatic atmosphere of the action. Even the cheerful “masks” of the Italian comedy Pantalone, Tartaglia, Brighella, after receiving the Chinese names Ping, Pong, Pang, from harmless chatterers turned into cruel, although acting in a buffoonish guise, the enemies of the hero. The happy ending of the opera, unlike the play, is overshadowed by the sacrificial death of Liu. This touching image is created by Puccini, who refused heroine Gozzi – captive princess, energetic and treacherous, secret rival Turandot, who cunningly discovers the mystery of the hero and betrays him. Puccini contrasted the two contrasting female images: the cold, cruel, princess Turandot, not knowing the human feelings, and the fragile, gentle slave Liu; in their spiritual duel, victory remains for Liu, who by his death affirms the invincible power of love.
The idea of creating the opera suddenly captured Puccini in November 1919. He took direct part in the development of the libretto, suggesting scenic situations and dramatic motifs to his librettists – the prolific playwright J. Adami (1878-1946) and the poet R. Simonyi (1875-1952). In April 1921, the composing of music began. Feeling that he was writing his last work, the composer was in a hurry, but the work on the opera lasted for several years – until 1924 the librettists could not finish the last act. The final duet and finale “Turandot” after the death of Puccini on the sketches he left was completed by his pupil, composer F. Alfano.
The premiere took place on April 25, 1926 in Milan under the direction of Toscanini. When the last chords, written by Puccini, sounded, the conductor lowered his wand and said: “Here death tore out the pen from the hands of the maestro.” The curtain fell slowly; performers and the audience left the theater in deep silence. The opera was heard only the next day.
“Turandot” – drama of strong passions, unfolding on a colorful background, where the whimsical mixture of eastern splendor and bloody cruelty, reality and symbolism. Small lyrical arioso, depicting the experiences of the main characters, interspersed with grandiose mass scenes with powerful sounding choruses and multicolored orchestral episodes. The musical language of the opera is complicated, many achievements of modern harmony are used in it, and the vocal parts of the two main characters are designed for outstanding voices. Perhaps, therefore Puccini’s last opera did not win such wide popularity as his works of the XIX – the beginning of the XX century.
In the first act, the mourning scenes of the meeting and farewell of the heroes alternate with various background episodes – sometimes dramatic, sometimes clownish, or lyrical. Mandarin’s speech, accompanied by stiff chords and bizarre instrumentation (xylophone, gong), introduces into the general emotional atmosphere of the act; the angular motive of execution sounds angrily. He is contrasted by the sad melody of the choir of the people and the woeful exclamations of Liu and Kalaf. The exit of the servants of the executioner was decided in the plan of an eerie grotesque dance-march. Then follows Turandot’s chorus of expectations with the eastern overflows in the orchestra (harp, flute, celesta); it is joined by a bright children’s choir with a melody in the Chinese spirit. A tragic contrast is a funeral march with a choir (the procession of the Persian prince to be executed). The scene of three masks is peculiar: Ping, Pong, Pang with quickly changing short, mocking melodies and rhythmic interruptions. Solo lyrical episodes are concentrated at the end of the act. Arioso Liu “Oh my lord” is distinguished by the fragility of the lines. Arioso Calafa “Do not cry, my Liu” full of sadness; his broad melancholy melody is picked up by an ensemble with a choir.
In the second act – two pictures, one after another without interruption. The first, drawing the night scene of three masks, is close to a similar scene from the first act: mocking, rapid patter is replaced by dreamy lyrical melodies in the Chinese spirit. The second picture is the culmination of the opera. In the center of it – a scene of riddles, framed by solemn choruses and two arioso Turandot. The first arioso “In the capital of this hundred thousand years ago” is built on the alternation of various melodies: one of them resembles a lullaby, the other is upbeat, pathetic, triumphant. The scene of the puzzles is a dramatic dialogue between Turandot and Calaf: short declamatory phrases of a sharp, angular melodic pattern, tense in a high register, convey the intensity of the heroes’ feelings; Each stanza ends with replicas of the choir. The subsequent arioso Turandot “O Lord, Son of Heaven” paints the heroine’s confusion. In the orchestral accompaniment of the small arioso of Calaf, a luminous melody of love sounds.
The third act also consists of two pictures. It opens with a subtle nocturne; the distant roll call of heralds and the strikes of the gong give him an alarming character, shading the serenity of the subsequent arioso of Calaf “This night will not sleep”; In this arioso, reminiscent of the romance, the melodious tune of love is widely developed, expressing the hero’s confidence in a near victory. The spilling of the lyrics is countered by the disturbing scene of three masks with quaintly flashing short melodies. The central scene dedicated to Liu consists of a series of contrasting episodes. Arioso “A lot of power loves hides” sounds light and transparent. A sorrowful and passionate feeling full of dying arioso Liu “Ah, heart you put in ice”; this beautiful pathetic melody – Puccini’s swan song, which, like his heroine, said goodbye to life, picks up Timur and develops the choir, there is a funerary procession. In the final picture of the duo of Calaf and Turandot, Calaf’s melodies are singled out – at first stern and resolute, then singing and lyrical. The final picture is short; it is dominated by a solemn, jubilant mood: the march is replaced by Turandot’s riddle and the chorus, built on the theme of love.