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Puccini's Turandot

Live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, a performance of Puccini's last masterpiece Turandot. With Nina Stemme, Anita Hartig, Marco Berti and Alexander Tsymbalyuk.

Franco Zeffirelli's sumptuous production of Puccini's final masterpiece returns to the Met for the first time since 2009. Puccini's score is both modern and romantic; reflecting eastern harmonies and coupled with his imaginative use of the orchestra at his disposal, he created a classic of 20th century opera. Nina Stemme performs the title role of the proud princess of ancient China, whose riddles doom every suitor who seeks her hand. She appears opposite Marco Berti, who as Calàf the brave prince, sings "Nessun dorma" and wins her love. Anita Hartig sings the role of Liù, the faithful slave girl. Paolo Carignani conducts.

Presented by Mary Jo Heath, with Ira Siff.

Puccini: Turandot

Turandot..... Nina Stemme (soprano)
Liú..... Anita Hartig (soprano)
Calàf..... Marco Berti (tenor)
Timur..... Alexander Tsymbalyuk (bass-baritone)
Emperor Altoum..... Ronald Naldi (tenor)
Ping..... Dwayne Croft (baritone)
Pang..... Tony Stevenson (tenor)
Pong..... Eduardo Valdes (tenor)
Mandarin..... David Crawford (baritone)
Executioner..... Arthur Lazalde (silent role)
Prince of Persia..... Sasha Semin (tenor)
Handmaiden..... Anne Nonnemacher (soprano)
Handmaiden..... Mary Hughes (mezzo-soprano)

The Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, New York
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, New York
Paolo Carignani (conductor).

3 hours, 15 minutes

Music Played

  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Concerto for keyboard and string orchestra no. 1 (BWV.1052) in D min [complete]

    Performer: Glenn Gould. Conductor: Leonard Bernstein. Orchestra: Columbia Symphony Orchestra.
    • J.S.Bach: concertos for Piano and Orchestra nos. 1-5 & 7: Glenn Gould.
    • Sony Classical.
    • 1.



China, in ancient times. Outside the Imperial Palace a mandarin reads an edict to the crowd: any prince seeking to marry Princess Turandot must answer three riddles. If he fails, he will die. The most recent suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon’s rising. Among the onlookers are the slave girl Liù, her aged master, and the young Calàf, who recognizes the old man as his long-lost father, Timur, vanquished King of Tartary. Only Liù has remained faithful to him, and when Calàf asks her why she replies that once, long ago, Calàf smiled at her. The mob cries for blood but greets the rising moon with a sudden fearful silence. When the Prince of Persia is led to his execution, the crowd calls upon the princess to spare him. Turandot appears and wordlessly orders the execution to proceed. Transfixed by the beauty of the unattainable princess, Calàf decides to win her, to the horror of Liù and Timur. Turandot’s three ministers, Ping, Pang, and Pong, also try to discourage him, but Calàf is unmoved. He comforts Liù, then strikes the gong that announces a new suitor.



Inside the palace, Ping, Pang, and Pong lament Turandot’s bloody reign, hoping that love will conquer her and restore peace. Their thoughts wander to their peaceful country homes, but the noise of the crowd gathering to witness the riddle challenge calls them back to reality.

Before the assembled court, the old emperor asks Calàf to reconsider, but he will not be dissuaded. Turandot appears. She recounts the story of her beautiful ancestor, Princess Lou-Ling, who was abducted and killed by a conquering prince. In revenge, she has turned against men and determined that none shall ever possess her. She poses her first question to Calàf: What is born each night and dies each dawn? “Hope,” Calàf answers, correctly. Turandot continues: What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not a flame? “Blood,” Calàf replies after a moment’s thought. Shaken, Turandot delivers the third riddle: What is like ice but burns? Tense silence prevails until Calàf triumphantly cries, “Turandot!” The crowd erupts in joy, and the princess vainly begs her father not to give her to the stranger. Hoping to win her love, Calàf offers Turandot a challenge of his own: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.



At night in the Imperial Gardens, Calàf hears a proclamation: on pain of death no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger’s name. Calàf is certain of his victory, but Ping, Pang, and Pong try to bribe him to leave the city. As the fearful mob threatens him to learn his name, soldiers drag in Liù and Timur. Calàf tries to convince the crowd that neither of them knows his secret. When Turandot appears, commanding Timur to speak, Liù replies that she alone knows the stranger’s identity and will never reveal it. She is tortured but remains silent. Impressed by her fortitude, Turandot asks Liù’s secret. It is love, she replies. When the soldiers intensify the torture, Liù tells Turandot that she, too, will know the joys of love. Then she snatches a dagger and kills herself. The crowd forms a funeral procession and the body is taken away. Turandot remains alone to confront Calàf, who impetuously kisses her. Knowing emotion for the first time, Turandot weeps. Calàf, now sure of winning her, reveals his identity.

Once again before the emperor’s throne, Turandot declares she knows the stranger’s name: it is Love.

- With thanks to the Metropolitan Opera, New York