Synopsis: Turandot

July 30, 2006

Premiered on April 1926 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.

Composed by Giacomo Puccini

Libretto written by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni

The story is set in Peking, China.

Princess Turandot has carried in her heart the story of her ancestor who was ravished and killed by a foreign invader. Cold and angry, she has sworn that no man will ever have her. It is decreed that any suitor who answers three riddles can have her hand in marriage. But any man who fails to solve the riddles is to be beheaded.


A crowd gathers for another execution of a suitor who has failed to answer Turandot’s riddles. In the crowd is an old blind man with a slave girl named Liù. The old man, named Timur, is an overthrown king who is in exile.

Separated by war, he and his son Calaf are reunited on this day. Calaf asks his father not to reveal his identity.

Turandot appears before the crowd to witness the execution. Upon seeing her, Calaf immediately falls in love. He determines to try his luck at answering the riddles. Timur, Liù, and Turandot’s ministers try to discourage Calaf. But, he is resolute.

The moment for hearing the riddles finally arrives. To Turandot’s surprise, Calaf solves them with ease and wins her hand. Even so, he wants to win her heart and gives her a chance to get out of the marriage. If she discovers his identity before dawn, he will submit himself to execution.


The princess rules that no one may sleep until the name is discovered. Turandot’s ministers tempt Calaf with women and riches in the hope of getting him to reveal his name. Calaf is again unmoved.

Turandot learns that only Liù knows the name of the young man. The princess orders the girl to be tortured so that she will reveal his identity. Before Liù is to be lead away, she confesses her secret love for Calaf. She then grabs a dagger from a soldier and kills herself.

Calaf asks Turandot to soften her cold heart. He then kisses her. An unexpected, passionate response from her leads him to reveal his name. He is now at her mercy.

At dawn, Turandot announces to the crowd that she knows the foreigner's name: his name is Love, she says.

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