The Lyric Stage August 1 - Is it Turandot or Turandoh?
Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli and Renata Scotto head the cast in highlights from Puccini's Turandot this Sunday night at 8PM on the Lyric Stage. This raises the burning isssue of whether to pronounce Puccini's final opera with the t at the end or not. Such is the nature of opera lovers, who are among the most opinionated people on earth. Final opinions on the subject favor both pronunciations. Most scholars and the original Turandot, Rosa Raisa, agree that Puccini pronounced it without the t sound. So what? says the opposite camp. The opera is a descendent of a 12 century Persian poem by Nizami, and Puccini's direct source was a drama by Carlo Gozzi, who was a Venetian, therefore the pronunciation is "dott" since the Venetian dialect usually pronounces final consonants. So how does the performance we have for you this week pronounce Turandot? In the pace of the performance it is sometimes hard to tell. Perhaps the singers are following the rule of whichever pronunciation fits the music best should be used. Not a bad idea.
Turandot's story is set in legendary China and involves Prince Calàf, who falls in love with the cold Princess Turandot. To obtain permission to marry her, a suitor has to solve three riddles - any wrong answer results in death. Calàf passes the test, but Turandot still refuses to marry him. He offers her a way out: if she is able to learn his name before dawn the next day, then at daybreak he will die.
The opera was unfinished at the time of Puccini's death in 1924, and was completed by Franco Alfano for the 1926 premiere. The first performance was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 25 April 1926, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This performance included only Puccini's music and not Alfano's additions, the last two scenes basically. Toscanni famously stopped the performance at the end of Puccini's music and turned to the audience, saying, "here the Maestro laid down his pen" - or words to that effect. Eyewitness versions differ. The first performance of the opera as completed by Alfano was the following night, and that is the standard version most used today.