Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Turandot. It was last on stage 5–16 July 2017 as part of the Summer 2016/17 season.
Princess Turandot has sworn that no man shall marry her unless he can correctly answer three riddles. Prince Calaf, captivated by Turandot’s beauty, takes up the challenge.
Calaf solves the riddles – but he wants also to win Turandot’s heart. He proposes a new test: if Turandot can discover his name before dawn, he will die; if not, she is his. Just before dawn, Calaf reveals his name to the despairing Turandot, so placing himself in her power. She summons her people and declares she has discovered his name: it is love.
‘I will win’ exclaims Prince Calaf as he boldly sets out to thaw the heart of the ice princess Turandot. In the final months of his life Puccini struggled to depict Calaf’s triumph: he died before finishing the final act. Turandot was completed by Franco Alfano two years later and given its premiere in 1926 at La Scala, Milan. During this initial performance the conductor Arturo Toscanini famously laid down his baton in Act III, declaring ‘at this point, the Maestro died’. Turandot went on to worldwide success.
Puccini creates a rich soundworld for this dark fairytale. The opera contains many memorable arias, from ‘Signore, ascolta’, as Liù appeals to Calaf not to attempt Turandot’s deadly riddles, to Turandot’s defiant ‘In questa reggia’. The opera also contains one of the most famous of all arias – ‘Nessun dorma’, sung as Calaf anticipates winning the Princess’s hand and immortalized in popular culture most of all by Luciano Pavarotti. Andrei Serban’s spectacular staging transports its audience to a beautiful but savage world. Sally Jacobs’s colourful sets and costumes are inspired by ancient Chinese culture, reflecting the traditional Chinese melodies woven into the score.
News and features
15 July 2017
Puccini’s great final work contains one of all opera’s most iconic tunes – ‘Nessun dorma’.
15 July 2017
Audience reviews of The Royal Opera's BP Big Screen relay and stream of Puccini's masterpiece.
6 July 2017
References to China, Chinese theatre and Eastern imagery run through Andrei Serban's production of Turandot.
22 May 2017
The opera repertory is littered with controversial, posthumously completed works.
21 April 2017
Tenor replaces Alfred Kim in the role of Calaf.
18 April 2017
Soprano replaces Dinara Alieva singing the role of Liù in Puccini's opera.
Turandot (UK /ˈtjʊər.ən.dɒt/ or US /ˈtʊr.ən.dɑːt/; Italian pronunciation: [turanˈdɔt]; see ) is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini, completed by Franco Alfano, and set to a libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Though Puccini's first interest in the subject was based on his reading of Friedrich Schiller's 1801 adaptation of the play, his work is most nearly based on the earlier text Turandot by Carlo Gozzi. The original story is based on Turan-Dokht (daughter of Turan) from the epic Haft Peykar (The Seven Beauties), work of 12th-century Persian poet Nizami. The opera's story is set in China and involves Prince Calaf, 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. Calaf 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 in 1926. The first performance was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 25 April 1926 and conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This performance included only Puccini's music and not Alfano's additions. The first performance of the opera as completed by Alfano was the following night, 26 April, although it is disputed whether this was conducted by Toscanini again or by Ettore Panizza.