[Met Performance] CID:94190
United States Premiere
Turandot {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/16/1926.
 (United States Premiere)
(Debuts: Martha Attwood, Pavel Ludikar
Reviews/ Chapter: Notes on Turandot)


Metropolitan Opera House
November 16, 1926

United States Premiere

TURANDOT {1}
Puccini/Alfano-Adami/Simoni

Turandot................Maria Jeritza
Calāf...................Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Lių.....................Martha Attwood [Debut]
Timur...................Pavel Ludikar [Debut]
Ping....................Giuseppe De Luca
Pang....................Angelo Badā
Pong....................Alfio Tedesco
Emperor Altoum..........Max Altglass
Mandarin................George Cehanovsky
Maid....................Louise Lerch
Maid....................Dorothea Flexer

Conductor...............Tullio Serafin

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Joseph Urban
Costume designer........Gretel Urban
Costume designer........Umberto Brunelleschi

Turandot received twelve performances this season.


Review of W. J. Henderson in the Sun:

Puccini's Last Opera Presented

Mme. Jeritza Sings Role of the Princess in 'Turandot' at the Metropolitan

"Turandot," a lyric drama in three acts and five scenes, the book by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, the music by Giacomo Puccini, was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening for the first time in this country. The night was filled with splendors, for this is an opera in which the eye and the ear must be equally absorbed. The revelation of this union of the arts tributary to the drama was effected without the aid of the subscription, but there was a great audience and abundant manifestations of public interest.

The opera was unfinished when death overtook the composer and Franco Alfano was called upon to write the final pages of the score. What he did has already been told in this place. The first performances
of "Turandot" were given at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan last April. The original cast included some singers well known here, namely, Rosa Raisa as the heroine, Michele Fleta as the Prince and Giacomo Rimini as Ping, the grand chancellor. Arturo Toscanini directed the performances. The piano version of the work contains the names of all principals engaged in the production, including the first players in the orchestra.

The story is taken from one of the tales of Count Carlo Gozzi, who lived from 1722 to 1806 and gained much fame from the creation of dramatic pieces based on fairy tales. The most famous of these was "Turandot, Princess of China," which attained the signal honor of translation into German by Schiller. His version was also utilized by Puccini's librettists. The basis of this delightful fable is the aversion of the Princess Turandot to the honorable estate of holy matrimony, said aversion being based on the violent marriage by conquest of her great-grandmother. Since princesses are expected to marry, this one devises an evasion in the shape of enigmas. Customarily ladies ask many agitating questions of gentlemen who desire to marry them, but in each case this lady asks just three. If the candidate cannot answer them, he loses not only the princess, but also his head.

The prince of Persia has just lost his when an unknown Prince, who is loitering about, sees the Princess, falls in love, and announces his intention of taking the usually fatal examination, He triumphantly solves the three riddles, and then the Princess calls upon her father the Emperor to save her. He reminds her that an oath is sacred, but that does not trouble her at all, and she asks the Prince if he wishes to take her with hate in her heart. No; he will take her with love.

He then offers a way of escape. She does not know his name. If she can tell it the next morning, he will resign his claim, to her hand and lay down hiss life. The Princess learns that his slave Liu, who has followed him, can give her the desired information, but Liu loves the Prince, and will not betray him, Put to the torture and fearing that she will be overcome, she kills herself. After her body has been borne away the Prince bids Turandot unveil that she may see the pure blood she has caused to be shed. He tears the veil off. A moment later he crushes her continued defiance by seizing her in his arms and kissing her passionately.

This hitherto unkissed lady is melted and now the unknown prince tells her his name. The instant she knows it she resumes her former demeanor and hastens to the great place before the palace to claim the forfeit. But she melts again at the last second and proclaims the name of the Prince as "Love." Whereupon the Chinese empire as represented by Giulio Setti's industrious chorus sings a paean of thanks.

This final work of Puccini might be the subject of a long and critical analysis just because it was by Puccini, but that at least must be deferred. First impressions are all that should be recorded now. And the first of them all is that the subject matter of the libretto is good dramatic material, but might have been better handled. Above all other detracting elements loom the three counselors called Ping, Pang and Pong. They are continually obtruded in the path of the development and in the first scene of the second act become veritable nuisances with their long winded maunderings, which have nothing to do with the progress of the drama. If these characters were intended as comic relief, they are a failure. They are neither comic nor a relief, except when they leave the stage.

Musically, the opera is planned on a ponderous scale, There is far more choral and ensemble writing in it than in any other creation of the composer. The music, too, is generally conceived in massive forms. It is clangorous, and it seeks to be imposing. There is much strenuous declamation and comparatively little play of the gentler accents of vocal art. The utterances of the Princess are chiefly sound and fury and they lost nothing by the amazing prodigality of Mme. Jeritza's tones.

There is but an echo of the older type of Puccini melody. But the [first] scene promises us something new in his choral writing. There is tremendous energy in the first chorus and a suave beauty in the second and both are fine examples of operatic writing. But in subsequent scenes the choral fires burn low and finally we get only smoldering embers of inspiration. The last act contains a vigorous air for the Prince and a duet couched in sound and well seasoned operatic terms, one would have expected the composer's imagination to blaze with brighter flame at the altar of Venus Vietrix.

As to the technical construction of the score only two or three points need be made. Of course there is local color in the frequent use of Chinese themes and in the suggestive tints of the orchestration. Weber wrote music to Schiller's "Turandot" and also used Chinese melodies. Quite logically and with the unerring theatrical instinct which never deserted Puccini the fundamental, emotions of the drama are published in unadulterated opera music. But the Chinese melodies hold a position in the foreground of the instrumental picture and much of the vocal ensemble. The orchestration is opulent and reveals the familiar power of the composer to weave the magic spell of instrumentation.

Representative themes appear in this work, but Puccini avoided the pitfall of slavish adherence to them. They are few and direct. The motive of the Princess (or her malign power) is first heard when the boys sing outside before the Prince of Persia appears and in full force again when the Princess enters. The enigma theme, which consists of a brass fanfare accompanies the warning of the Princess that the enigmas are three and death but one, and is heard when the Prince propounds his riddle. But the pursuit of the leading motive plan, which Wagner unloaded on the already burdened shoulders of music, is generally unprofitable, for unless the motives weave themselves into an expression of the scene they are of no importance.

There will perhaps be some differences of opinion as to whether in this last score Puccini achieved unity of style, But this matter may he left for future discussion. The production of the opera at the Metropolitan is truly splendid. Josef Urban's scenery is gorgeous in color, appropriate in mood, and touched with the fantasy of the story. Mr. Serafin has prepared the music with skill and authority. Mme. Jeritza's costumes are magnificent, and the garments of the other principals and the chorus suggest the China of Aladdin's lamp.

The delivery of the music was generally most vigorous. It is a very loud opera indeed, but may be toned down. About the individual impersonations comment may be made after the second performance.

At the close of the performance there were some fifteen curtain calls for the principals.


Designs by Gretel Urban.
Chapter: Notes on Turandot.



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