HISTORY OF THE WORK (continued)
undoubtedly attracted to the theme by a number of factors: exotic settings
were appealing not only to him, but had proven highly successful in
Madama Butterfly and La Fanciulla del West, as well as icons of the
2nd half of the 19th century such as Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, Hèrodiade
and Thaïs by Massenet, Lakmè by Dèlibes, Verdi's
Aidia, and Strauss' Salome.
motive was the contrast of this plot-line to the veristic themes chosen
for his earlier works. A third element was probably his fascination
for the character of Turandot - the cruel, icy princess, who is quite
different to any of Puccini's previous leading ladies - sweet and obedient
figures who were doomed to suffer and die for love.
composer was particularly taken by the transformation of the leading
protagonist at the end of the opera. In addition, he stipulated that
his librettists fill the work with a wide variety of characters: Ping,
Pang and Pong provide brilliant humor, whereas the sympathetic and tragic
slavegirl Liù (who doesn't feature in Gozzi's story at all) was
created to counterbalance the Princess, much in the style of Puccini's
definite aim was to break away from Gozzi's model which was bound to
the style and conventions of the Commedia dellArte of the 18th
century. He also wanted to avoid the neo-classical style that another
composer from Tuscany, Ferrucio Busoni, had used for the same story.
Busoni's Turandot was closer to Gozzi's original and received its world
premiere at Zurich in 1917.
writing and composition of Puccini's Turandot proved particularly laborious
and took almost five years. The orchestration was almost complete in
early 1924. Only the great final duet (after Liù's death and
the scene in which Princess Turandot is transformed by the unknown Prince's
kiss into a warmhearted human being capable of love) was missing. Puccini
had written various fragments and concepts for this finale, but had
not completed the opera. On November 4, 1924, Puccini was rushed to
a Brussels clinic to be treated of a tumor in his throat. He died of
heart failure on November 29, following an unsuccessful operation.
which had been scheduled for its world premiere at Teatro alla Scala
under Arturo Toscanini, was left unfinished - with the vital scene in
which the icy princess "melts" actually missing. Toscanini decided to
commission Franco Alfano (a former pupil of Puccinis) to use the
master's final sketches and undertake the difficult task of completing
on April 25, 1926, Turandot was premiered at La Scala. The cast
included Rosa Raisa (Turandot), Miguel Fleta (Calaf), and Maria Zamboni
(Liù). The section prepared by Alfano was not, however, performed
on the opening night - following Liù's death scene, Toscanini
put his baton down, turned to the public and announced: "Here the Maestro
music in Turandot is in many respects extremely modern in style.
The composer used his utmost creative resources to set the complex thematic
material and produce a work which ranks as one of the monuments of 20th
century music-theater. One shouldn't forget that while he was composing
Turandot, Puccini attended the world premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's
Pierrot Lunaire in Florence. The hallucinatory and ghostly atmosphere
depicted in that work left their mark on the Italian composer's writing.
Turandot shared a common fate with several other great 20th century operas including Doktor Faust (Busoni), Moses and Aaron (Schoenberg) and Lulu (Alban Berg) - all were left unfinished by their composers. A fate which makes them all the more fascinating.