Puccini's great final work Turandot is performed at the Royal Opera House, starring Christine Goerke as the Ice Princess Turandot, and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Calaf.
Puccini's great final work Turandot from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This grand spectacle of legendary China stars Christine Goerke as the Ice Princess Turandot and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Prince Calaf, the unknown prince captivated by her beauty. Turandot has vowed that no man will marry her unless he can correctly answer three riddles - Prince Calaf takes up the challenge knowing he must thaw her heart or die. The cast also includes Hibla Gerzmava as the loyal and kind Liu, and Insung Sim as Timur, Calaf's father. The Chorus and Orchestra of Covent Garden are conducted by Dan Ettinger. James Naughtie presents this recording, made earlier this summer from the Royal Opera House, and his guest in the box is Sarah Lenton.
Turandot ..... Christine Goerke (soprano)
Calaf ..... Aleksandrs Antonenko (tenor)
Liu ..... Hibla Gerzmava (soprano)
Timur ..... Insung Sim (bass)
Ping ..... Michel De Souza (baritone)
Pang ..... Aled Hall (tenor)
Pong ..... Pavel Petrov (tenor)
Emperor Altoum ..... Robin Leggate (tenor)
Mandarin ..... Yuriy Yurchuk (baritone)
Royal Opera House Orchestra
Chorus of the Royal Opera House
Dan Ettinger (conductor).
Princess Turandot of China has sworn an oath that no man will possess her. However, she offers her suitors a chance: if one of them can answer correctly the three riddles which she asks him, he can marry her. If not, he must die.
Inside the walls of Peking, a crowd wait for the execution of the Prince of Persia, who has failed the test of the riddles. As the guards push back the excited people, a blind old man falls, and is helped up by his companion, a young girl. A young man comes to help them and recognizes the blind man as the exiled King Timur of Tartary. He reveals himself as Timur’s son Calaf, who was separated from his father after the loss of their kingdom. Timur’s companion is Liù, one of his slave girls, who has cared for him since their exile. It becomes clear that Liù cares deeply for Calaf.
The Prince of Persia is led in by the servants of the executioner. Turandot arrives to confirm the Prince’s death. Calaf is horrified, but, as soon as he sees the Princess, is captivated by her beauty. Despite the warnings of the ministers Ping, Pong and Pang, he vows to win Turandot himself. Liù implores him to leave with her and Timur (Signore, ascolta). Calaf tries to console her (Non piangere, Liù) but remains determined, and strikes the gong to signal his intention to woo the Princess.
Ping, Pong and Pang complain about the endless executions caused by Turandot’s obstinacy. Each longs to leave Peking for the peace of his country home.
Wise men arrive holding the scrolls containing the answers to Turandot’s riddles. Calaf, calling himself the ‘Unknown Prince’, is brought before Turandot’s father, the Emperor Altoum. The Emperor begs the ‘Unknown Prince’ to leave, and explains how he must die if he fails to answer Turandot’s riddles correctly. Calaf remains obstinate.
Turandot arrives for the test of the riddles. She explains the reason for her cruelty (In questa reggia) - many centuries before, her ancestress Princess Lo-u-Ling was raped and killed by an invader. Turandot sees herself as the reincarnation of Lo-u-Ling and has therefore vowed that no one will possess her. The riddles are her one concession.
She reminds Calaf that their outcome has so far always been death. Calaf insists on attempting to solve the riddles. Turandot asks him: what is the ghost which all the world invokes and is constantly renewed; what flickers like a flame when a man dreams of conquest; what is frost that burns, that makes a king of the one it accepts as a slave? Encouraged by the crowd, Calaf correctly answers: Hope! Blood! Turandot!
Turandot is now his. But Calaf does not wish the Princess to give herself to him unwillingly, and therefore proposes another test. Turandot does not know his name – if she can discover it during the night, he is prepared to die at dawn. If not, he will possess her.
Calaf awaits dawn, while the voices of heralds announce that no one in Peking shall sleep until the name of the ‘Unknown Prince’ has been discovered. Calaf is confident that he will win Turandot (Nessun dorma).
Ping, Pong and Pang attempt to get him to leave, offering him beautiful women, riches and glory if he renounces Turandot. Calaf remains firm, to the annoyance of the ministers and the rage of the crowd, who begin to threaten him. Timur and Liù have been discovered and are dragged in. They were seen with Calaf the day before and are suspected of knowing his name.
Turandot is summoned, and orders Liù to be tortured until she reveals the identity of the ‘Unknown Prince’. Liù explains to Turandot that she can bear the torture due to her love of the stranger (Tu, che di gel sei cinto). Still refusing to reveal his name, she kills herself. Timur and the crowd lament her death and carry her body away.
Calaf and Turandot are left alone, and Calaf accuses Turandot of inhumanity. To begin with, she is cold and unyielding, but finally she succumbs to Calaf’s embrace. Still not wishing Turandot to marry him unwillingly, Calaf tells her his name and places himself in her power.
Turandot summons the Emperor and people, and proudly declares that she now knows the name of the foreigner. It is Love, she states. As Calaf and Turandot embrace, the crowd rejoices.
ROH Programme Synopsis (2017)