Performance | Turandot | Modern Era | Classical
Turandot’s significance within the history of twentieth-century opera is twofold. Not only was it Puccini’s last opera and, for many, his finest, even though he did not live to finish Act 3 (which was completed from sketches by Franco Alfano). It is also the last work in the Italian grand opera tradition to enter the permanent international repertory. For Puccini it represented a new departure in terms of its choice of subject – a fairytale by the eighteenth-century Venetian playwright Carlo Gozzi about a prince who seeks (where countless others have failed and paid with their lives) to win the hand of the haughty and enigmatic Chinese princess Turandot. Puccini brings his characteristic human warmth to this austere drama, though this serves if anything to accentuate its elements of brutality, notably in the Act 3 torture scene. The music is richly colourful, incorporating transcriptions of Chinese folksong and elements of modal (including whole-tone and pentatonic) harmony. It also contains some of Puccini’s most justly celebrated arias, including ‘In questa reggia’ (‘In this Palace’) for Turandot herself and Calaf’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ (‘None Shall Sleep’).
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