Turandot (Kraków Opera)

Classical music

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A tale about a Chinese princess who orders, in cold blood, her suitors to be beheaded if they fail to guess her three riddles. Calaf, the son of a dethroned Tatar king, who has just arrived in Beijing and witnesses the cruel Turandot sentencing yet another of her victims – the Persian Prince – accepts the challenge. Ignoring the pleas of his father who is spending exile in the company of servant Liù, whom he just came across in a crowd awaiting the execution, Calaf solves the three riddles. Turandot despairs and refuses to marry him. The offended Calaf, risking his life, says that if Turandot guesses his name by dawn, he will kill himself. Ruthless Turandot tortures Liù to find out the name of the prince, but the servant prefers to kill herself with a knife rather than to disclose the name of the man whom she secretly loves and to put his life at risk. Liù’s devotion and Calaf’s perseverance melt the icy heart of Turandot. At dawn, she announces that Calaf's name is Love.

Puccini started to work on Turandot in 1921. Larynx cancer halted the work on the score at the scene of Liù’s death. The opera, based on the deceased composer’s sketches, was finished by Franco Alfano, designated by Arturo Toscanini. The legendary director, during the world première of Turandot in La Scala in 1926, presented Puccini’s work without the ending, thus paying homage to the great composer. Alfano’s ending was played on the next day and even though the general opinion is that the task turned out to surpass his skills, it is used the most frequently by these who decide to stage Turandot.

Turandot is believed to be the indisputable masterpiece of the composer, far beyond the scores of La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. “Puccini’s harmonic glossary,” claims Piotr Kamiński “has never been so bold and innovative, simultaneously hiding its bravery behind smooth naturalism which has been deceiving since the very beginning and is still enchanting, even for the most conservative listeners.”

Turandot also attracts by its interpretative potential. As any fairy tale or myth, it contains the secret of our life, conscious or subconscious, which we want to read. This story refers to the drama that has been taking place between man and woman for centuries. Thus, does Turandot, in her steely cruelty and murderous passion, reveal women's fears of becoming engaged in love, the heat of desire, the loss of independence and the sanctioning of subjugation to men in amorous fulfilment? Or is she the avenger of all females who for centuries were treated as mere sexual objects, the property of men, humiliated, raped, deprived of identity, and now they can reverse the order and smash the patriarchy with the executioner’s axe? Does Calaf, as a hero of every fairy tale, only want to overcome evil with love and drag Turandot to the “good side”? Or is he taking up the fight because overcoming such a dangerous opponent, especially a woman, would satisfy his manly vanity and ambition? By offering his life, does he want to be not a conqueror but a saviour, redeeming the sins of all men? However, what to do with Liù’s body, slurred over by the future lovers? Questions abound, along with potential answers.

How will Turandot be interpreted by Karolina Sofulak, who is preparing Puccini’s work for the stage of Kraków Opera? The director debuted in Opera North, one of the most progressive opera institutions in the United Kingdom. She was the first Pole to win the international competition of opera directing, the European Opera Directing Prize in Zurich. She often directs for the music stages of Europe. In Poland, Sofulak cooperated with the operas in Gdańsk, Poznań, Bytom and with Kraków’s Opera Rara Festival, where she presented Dvořák’s Vanda in 2020 and The Golden Dragon by Peter Eötvös, a story about the drama of migration, in the next edition.

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Direction: Karolina Sofulak
Musical direction: Tomasz Tokarczyk
Set design and costumes: lona Binarsch
Choreography: Monika Myśliwiec
Premiere: 25 March 2022



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