Princess Turandot

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(Puccini: Turandot). Sop. The cold and cruel Princess, daughter of the Emperor Altoum, who has declared that she will marry whichever prince can give the answer to the three riddles she asks. If they fail, the penalty is death and several have already been executed. The latest victim is the Prince of Persia and she is about to supervise his execution. An Unknown Prince declares his intention of taking part in the contest, despite the pleas by his blind father Timur, the exiled King of Tartary, to desist. Even Turandot's father asks him to reconsider, feeling that enough lives have been lost already. Nothing will deter the Unknown Prince. Turandot herself explains why she has devised this trial: many thousands of years earlier her ancestress was betrayed when the city was overrun by a foreign conqueror. She died in exile of a broken heart. Turandot's intention is to avenge her unknown predecessor. She puts the first question: ‘What is the phantom that is born every night and dies every day?’ The Prince answers correctly: ‘It is that which inspires me—it is Hope’. She puts the second riddle: ‘What is it that is sometimes like a fever, yet grows cold when you die?’ Again he gives the correct answer: ‘It is Blood’. Turandot is starting to be worried—no one has got this close before to answering all riddles correctly. She puts the third question: ‘What is the ice that sets you on fire?’ The Prince hesitates, but then answers her: ‘You are the ice which sets me on fire—Turandot’. Turandot begs her father to release her from the pact she has made, but Altoum points out that her oath is sacred. The Prince gives her one last chance—she must guess his name before morning. If she succeeds, he is willing to die, but if she fails, she is his. Turandot orders the whole population to stay awake all night—no one must sleep until the Unknown Prince's identity is discovered. She has his old father, Timur, arrested and tortured to make him tell the name, but Liù declares that she alone knows the answer and she then kills herself. The Prince accuses Turandot of cruelty. He then kisses her and tells her his name—now his life is in her hands. She summons her people and addresses them: The Unknown Prince's name is—LOVE. She submits to him, all resistance gone. Aria: In questa reggia (‘In this palace’). Turandot is the most vocally ‘heroic’ of the Puccini heroines, demanding great stamina and vocal control from its exponents, who have included Claudia Muzio, Maria Jeritza, Eva Turner, Gina Cigna, Amy Shuard, Birgit Nilsson, Maria Callas, Ghena Dimitrova, Eva Marton, and Gwyneth Jones. Created (1926) by Rosa Raisa.

Subjects: Opera.

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