From The Metropolitan Opera Archives:
Notes on Turandot
The American premiere of Puccini's last opera, Turandot,
was at the Metropolitan Opera House on November 16, 1926.
ROYALTIES An agreement with G. Ricordi, dated January 14, 1926
gave the Metropolitan Opera "the première performing rights in
the United States of America in the Italian version of the grand
opera entitled TURANDOT by G. PUCCINI, and the exclusive performing
rights in New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta
(the première to take place not later than December 31st, 1926)
and for the season beginning November 1st, 1926 and ending May
15, 1927." The royalty was $4,000 for the first five performances
and $600 per performance thereafter. Typed into the standard contract
is the line: "Maestro [Tullio] Serafin to be the conductor."
PRODUCTION COSTS The scenery for Turandot cost $29,742.76,
which included $10,000 for Joseph Urban to design
and paint five scenes. Costumes cost $31,422.43, which included
$3,000 paid directly to Maria Jeritza for her gowns in the title
role. (The famous gold costume from the finale is in the Metropolitan
Opera Archives.) The production was seen for four seasons with
ever diminishing demand, twelve performances the first season,
seven the second, six the third, and two the fourth. The complete
production, except for Jeritza's costumes, was sold to the Chicago
Opera in 1933 for $3,000. When Rosa Raisa, who sang in the world
premiere at La Scala, appeared in Chicago as Turandot in 1933-34,
she wore her own costumes in front of settings from the Met.
PRODUCTION "During the performance a census of those singing on
the stage and mostly visible to the house showed these large totals:
120 opera chorus, 120 chorus school, 60 boy choir singers, 60
ballet girls, 30 male dancers and procession leaders, 30 stage
musicians, 230 extra `supers' - 650 persons, all told, besides
the eleven-star cast and a hundred orchestra players in the pit."
The New York Times, November 17, 1926.
MARIA JERITZA "It was a magnificent entrance as Jeritza accomplished
it last night: the sudden, gleaming apparition, making its sovereign
patibulary gesture toward moonlight youth upon the wall - one
recalls no entrance quite so superb in opera hereabouts since
an unforgettable Thaïs strode upon the stage of the Manhattan
Opera House nineteen years ago disguised as Mary of Paris and
Alexandria. This conquering bit of histrionism (Turandot sings
not a note until the second act) set the key for a triumphant
impersonation....She has done nothing more brilliant in New York,
nothing more completely imagined and integrative and fused, than
her enactment of the merciless Oriental princess." Lawrence Gilman,
The Herald Tribune, November 17, 1926.
"Miss Jeritza never impressed this observer as an artist capable
of subtleties of conception or method. All that she has done has
been of the red, white and blue picture type. She hits you in
the eye. She has no confidence in your imagination, or possibly
she has none in her own. Her Turandot was her greatest triumph
and all that is necessary to success in that role is gorgeous
clothes, piercing tones and the general behavior of a public scold."
W. J. Henderson, The New York Sun, November 12, 1927.
GIACOMO LAURI-VOLPI "If we had not known him by his princely garb
of purple velvet and jade green and the comely figure that he
made, we should have known him by the pealing of his trumpet-voice
- as Eve, so she told Adam, recognized the tiger by his stripes.
Mr. Lauri-Volpi has not forgotten how to fling a high B flat into
an enraptured auditorium." Lawrence Gilman, The Herald Tribune,
November 1, 1927.
PING, PANG AND PONG "Mr. [Giuseppe] de Luca was wasted on a hopeless
part in which he, in company with Mr. [Angelo] Bada and Mr. [Alfio]
Tedesco, toddled about and babbled inconsequential recitative.
We may learn to love these three prattlers who have escaped from
a perverted dream of Gilbert and Sullivan, but we reserve the
right to linger in doubt. Their patter is at any rate a new note
in the gamut of Puccini recitative, and there are captivating
subtleties in their ensemble singing, but only an Italian ear
can catch the cleverness of their dialogue." Henderson,
The New York Sun, November 21, 1926.
BOXOFFICE The income for the premiere of Turandot was $18,475,
the highest of any performance in New York that
SALARIES Jeritza, $2,400 per performance, highest fee for any
Met performer except for Amelita Galli-Curci's tour performances;
Florence Easton (who sang three performances on tour), $800 per
performance; Lauri-Volpi, $12,000 per month; Martha Attwood, the
unsuccessful first Liù, $60 per week; de Luca, $750 per performance;
Serafin, $21,000 for a season of eighty-six performances. Orchestra
members were paid $100 per week of eight performances; choristers
received $54 per week; ballet girls were paid from $15 to $40
Maria Jeritza in the title role
and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi as Calàf
Photograph by H. Mishkin, 1926.
A rehearsal group with Jeritza
as Turandot, Lauri-Volpi as Calàf,
Giulio Setti, chorus master, Wilhelm
von Wymetal, director, Giulio Gatti-
Casazza, General Manager, and Tullio
Photograph by H. Mishkin, 1926.
Maria Jeritza's restored Turandot costume is kept in the Met Opera Archives.