Turandot, Opera by G. Puccini
Allow yourself to be transported to a world of passion and danger, love and revenge. The intensity and high-stakes drama of Turandot are rarely equalled, inspiring as much passion and emotion today as the day it was written. Savour the soaring beauty of its famous arias in the astonishing venue of the Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheatre which is an architectural jewel in Verona’s crown. Rendering the experience even more appealing, it includes a sightseeing tour of Verona on a little train through the city’s most famous spots.
Turandot is widely considered Puccini’s masterpiece – a collaboration with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, it was the last work he composed, left unfinished by his untimely death in 1924 and completed by Franco Alfano. Set in a mythical Peking and inspired by a story by the 12th century Persian poet Nizami, the opera tells the story of the beautiful but cruel princess Turandot, who demands that all suitors answer three riddles to win her hand: anyone failing to answer correctly will be executed. Calaf, a foreign prince, falls in love with her at first sight and decides to risk all to win her love. He correctly guesses the three riddles – but Turandot is not willing to cede her independence easily, and the plot thickens before the eventual dramatic resolution. Turandot premiered at Milan’s La Scala on 25 April 1926, a year and a half after Puccini’s death, and has enjoyed continued popularity ever since.
Turandot contains some of opera’s best-loved melodies and arias. The servant girl Liù’s rendition of the silvery Signore, ascolta! is a searing expression of hope, tenderness, love, and despair, incorporating a traditional Chinese melody but skilfully adapted with Western harmonies. And most famously, as Calaf proclaims his intention to conquer the beautiful and unattainable princess, he launches into what is one of the most triumphant and celebrated tenor arias of all time, Nessun dorma. Popularised by Pavarotti’s performance at Italia ’90, this aria is universally known and loved. The long final note, signifying Calaf’s intention to succeed in his quest, is in equal parts rousing and defiant, awakening an irrepressible exultation of the human spirit in all who hear it.
Verona is a city which must be seen to be believed. Together with Turandot, you can enjoy a 25-minute tour of the city on a trenino, or little train. There is an included commentary available in a number of languages. You can choose to take this trip on the same day as Turandot, or on the previous or following day. The train leaves every half hour approximately from Piazzà Brà, close to the Arena di Verona, where it also ends. Relish the beauty of this wonderful city and one of Italy’s most famous operas in this unique combined experience.