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by Giacomo Puccini

(completed by Franco Alfano)

Libretto by Giuseppe Adami & Renato Simoni

Based on the play by Carlo Gozzi


OLPH Catholic Academy of Brooklyn

Conducted by Gregory Ortega
Staged by Linda Lehr

Performed in Italian with English supertitles

In three acts with two intermissions
Act I:
about 35 minutes
Intermission: about 20 minutes
Act II: about 50 minutes
Intermission: about 20 minutes
Act III: about 40 minutes
Total estimated performance time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

The Cast


The Story

Turandot is set in China in legendary times.

Act I
The walls of the Imperial City, Peking

A mandarin announces to the populace that Princess Turandot will marry the man of royal blood who can answer three riddles. Failure means execution – the fate of the Prince of Persia, whose imminent beheading the crowd is eager to see. They rush toward the palace but are beaten back by the guards. In the confusion, Timur, the exiled King of the Tartars, falls to the ground. When his slave girl, Liù, calls for help, an unknown Prince rushes up and recognizes Timur as his father. Timur is overjoyed; he had believed his son was dead. He tells the Prince how Liù has faithfully cared for him. When the Prince asks her why, she reveals that it was because one day he had smiled at her.

Meanwhile the crowd is champing at the bit for the execution and cry out that striking the gong will make Turandot appear – and the executioner rejoice. When the hapless Prince of Persia appears, their bloodthirstiness turns to pity. The Unknown Prince curses Turandot’s cruelty, but when she appears, he is thunderstruck by her divine beauty. The procession moves off, leaving the Unknown Prince, Liù, and Timur alone in the empty square. Timur is horrified by his son’s sudden infatuation and reminds him of the danger of falling in love with Turandot. But the Prince is determined to win her. As he rushes to strike the gong, he is stopped by Ping, Pang, and Pong, the Emperor’s ministers. They try to convince him that Turandot is merely flesh and blood and not worth dying for. When Turandot’s handmaidens appear on a nearby balcony to call for silence, the Prince fancies he can smell her perfume. The ministers warn him that Turandot’s riddles are impossible to solve. Then the ghosts of her failed suitors appear, still desperately in love with her. But the Prince remains convinced that he will succeed. Timur implores his son not to abandon him, and Liù is heartbroken. The Prince refuses to listen to their pleas. The ministers and Timur make one last effort to hold the Prince back, but, crying out for Turandot, he rushes to the gong and strikes it three times.

Act II
Scene 1. A pavilion.

Ping, Pang, and Pong meet to discuss preparations for the Unknown Prince’s wedding – or funeral. They recount the many executions that have taken place since Turandot was born and imagine how lovely it would be if she married. Their reverie is broken by the sounds of trumpets and drums announcing the commencement of the riddle trial.

Scene 2. A square in front of the palace.

A great crowd has gathered for the riddle trial; among them are Timur and Liù. The Emperor unsuccessfully tries to dissuade the Unknown Prince from proceeding with the trial. Turandot appears and gazes coldly upon her suitor. She recalls how, two thousand years ago, her ancestress was kidnapped by the King of the Tartars and died. It is to avenge her ancestress’s death that Turandot forces her suitors to answer riddles or be killed. She vows that no man will ever possess her. She threatens the Prince: “The riddles are three – death is one.” But the Prince is confident that he will survive.

Turandot poses the first riddle: “Every night it is born, and every day it dies.” The Prince correctly answers, “Hope.” Unfazed, she poses the second riddle, mesmerizing him with her cold gaze: “It darts like a flame and is not a flame.” To her dismay, the Prince recovers and answers correctly: “Blood.” Bending menacingly over him, she poses the third: “Frost that sets you on fire.” The Prince is momentarily at a loss – but again, he answers correctly: “Turandot.”

Turandot is staggered as the crowd bursts into joyous song. Turandot begs the Emperor not to permit the marriage, but he reminds her that the oath is sacred. She asks the Prince if he would take her by force, but he replies that he wants her to love him. He offers her a bargain: If she can guess his name before dawn, he will die. She agrees and returns to the palace. The crowd sings an anthem praising their Emperor.

Scene 1. The palace garden.

The Unknown Prince listens to heralds in the distance announcing Turandot’s decree that no one in Peking is to sleep, and that the Unknown Prince’s name must be revealed before morning on pain of death. The Prince imagines Turandot in her cold room and vows that she will learn his name only when he kisses her at daybreak (“Nessun dorma”).

Ping, Pang, and Pong approach with a crowd of citizens and try to tempt the Prince with women, treasure, and glory if he will reveal his name to them. They beg him not to let them be killed. But to no avail. Then the guards drag in Timur and Liù. The Prince, horrified, insists that they do not know his name. The ministers summon Turandot, who tries to intimidate Timur into speaking. Liù comes forward and claims that only she knows the Prince’s name. The Prince tries to intervene but is held fast by the guards while Liù is tortured. Turandot stops the torture and demands that Liù speak. But Liù would rather die. Turandot is mystified. She asks Liù how she found such strength. Liù replies that it is love. Turandot orders the torture to resume. Liù, proclaiming that Turandot will love the Prince as she did, grabs a knife from a soldier’s belt and stabs herself to death. Turandot, enraged, lashes the soldier. Timur grieves for Liù and proclaims that her spirit will avenge itself. Turandot’s face is veiled by her attendants. The terrified crowd begs Liù’s forgiveness as her body is borne away.

The Prince and Turandot are alone. He tears away her veil to make her see Liù’s blood. She haughtily reminds him that she is a daughter of heaven. When he tries to kiss her, she repels him. But he overcomes her and kisses her passionately. She drops all resistance and begins weeping for the loss of her heavenly glory. He assures her that with the dawn will come love. She admits that she knew he was different from the other suitors and that she feared and loved him. She implores him to leave with the mystery of his name intact, but he declares that she is his, and – risking his life, for dawn has not yet broken – he reveals that his name is Calaf, son of Timur. She orders him to appear with her before the people.

Scene 2. Outside the palace.

The emperor and the populace await Turandot’s arrival. She appears and tells her father that she knows the Unknown Prince’s name: It is love. Calaf appears and they embrace. The crowd is overjoyed.

Synopsis by Linda Cantoni