Tuesday, November 10, 2009

About Turandot

According to Concert Opera Boston:

"A question that has followed Turandot around for decades concerns the proper pronunciation of the title character’s name. The name Turandot apparently is derived from the Persian “Turandokht,” meaning “daughter of Turan,” Turan being a region of what was then Persia, later called Turkestan. The name Turandokht and the fact that Gozzi’s play was entitled Turandotte imply that the final t should be pronounced. However, according to Rosa Raisa, who created the title role, Puccini pronounced it without the final t." The stuff you read.

There's lots of information on the internet about the ending of Turandot.

From the Metropolitan Opera is this:

"Alfano was given a year to write Turandot’s final act, as Toscanini wanted the piece to premiere on the anniversary of Puccini’s death. Alfano hastily completed what he could, using Puccini’s drafts and incorporating his own style when the drafts were unclear or when no music existed at all. Alfano heard the complete orchestrations of the first two acts just twenty days before his own draft was due; there simply was no time for him to completely familiarize himself with Puccini’s orchestral intentions for the work.

"Alfano’s final act was famously rejected by Toscanini, who cut large parts of his work. At the 1926 premiere of Turandot at La Scala, Toscanini conducted the opera until the moment of Liù’s death, then set down his baton and announced, “Here is where the opera ends, because at this point the Maestro died.” Although Toscanini and others did later conduct most of Alfano’s ending, it was not until 1982 that the piece was performed in its entirety. The complete version has since become quite popular."

Apparently we normally hear the shortened version composed by Alfano and severely cut by Toscanini.

I am researching all this because I had such a different take on the opera from the performance in the simulcast than I have ever had before, and because I realize the part that was different for me was the parts composed by Alfano. Was I hearing something different, or was the performance just that different?


I asked the Met and received this answer: "The short of it is that Alfano was forced to edit and cut his original ending by Puccini's publisher, Tito Ricordi, and conductor Arturo Toscanini. This second version became the standard and is the one performed at the Met and virtually everywhere else."

What this means is that my reaction was to the performance.

Everything is on YouTube, including a recording of Alfano's original ending.

The lengthy footnote on the film includes this interesting paragraph:

Puccini died without completing Turandot. He left behind 36 pages of sketches on 23 sheets for the end of Turandot, together with instructions that Riccardo Zandonai should finish the opera. Puccini's son Tonio objected, and eventually Franco Alfano was chosen to flesh out the sketches. Alfano was chosen because his opera "La leggenda di Sakùntala" resembled Turandot in its setting and heavy orchestration.

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