Performed for the first time on 25 April 1926 at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala
Opera in three acts and five scenes
Composers: Giacomo Puccini and Franco Alfano
Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni

Locandina originale della Turandot. Una splendida donna orientale è ritratta in sontuosi abiti. Dietro di lei, una decorazione tipica cinese.

Plot outline:

This opera reflects the Maestro’s overwhelming urge to move away from bourgeois drama and tackle the enigmatic subjects that had fascinated him for a long time. The subject, drawn from Gozzi’s mythic play of the same name, was suggested by Simoni during a dinner: “Giacomo, I’ve got an idea. What about Gozzi? … What if we got our teeth into a really good mythic story like that, something unusual, fantastical and bizarre?”

And Giacomo Puccini’s exceptional unfinished opera was born, with Franco Alfano completing the final scenes after Puccini’s death. 

“Turandot” is characterised by scenes with extraordinary visual impact, magnificent choruses and moments of intense emotion. The work features innovative dramatical and musical elements. The use of the chorus creates a feeling of a lack of intimacy, caused by the crowding of the stage at climactic moments

Liù’s poetic personality captures the audience’s attention, distracting them from Turandot’s coldness, until she transforms into a woman in love in the finale. The poignant death of Liù is a touching moment that makes the princess’s metamorphosis less moving. Although the young slave girl’s feelings may be simple, the sacrifice she makes for love is seen as a powerful gesture by Calaf.
The transformation that Turandot undergoes is what caused Puccini to slow down in his writing of the opera – how can such a frosty woman become loving and tender? He was tormented by this conclusion to the very end. During his hospital treatment in Brussels, he took with him 36 pages of manuscript, consisting of memos and scores, hoping to finish the opera while convalescing. He never did.

Listen to “Nessun dorma” from Act III on Spotify

Libretto dell'opera Turandot con decorazioni orientaleggianti in oro


An edict is announced by a Mandarin: Turandot, the Emperor’s daughter, will only marry a suitor who is able to solve three difficult riddles that she has devised.

The Prince of Persia has failed the test and will be executed when the moon rises. In the meantime, in the midst of the milling crowd, waiting for the execution, young Calaf encounters his long-lost father, Timur, the deposed king of Tartary alongside his devoted slave girl Liù, who is madly in love with the old man’s son.

While the crowd calls for mercy for the Persian prince, Turandot orders the executioner to proceed. In this moment, Calaf is struck by the Princess’s regal beauty and, seized by an amorous impulse, decides to risk his luck at solving the three riddles.

Despite the efforts of the three royal ministers, Ping, Pong and Pang, to stop him, Calaf strikes the gong, calling out Turandot’s name and accepting the challenge.


Night has fallen. The three royal ministers, Ping, Pong and Pang, lament the repeated executions of Turandot’s victims. In the palace courtyard, everything is ready for the challenge of the riddles. In attendance: the Emperor, the people, royal advisers, Liù, Timur, the mysterious prince Calaf and Turandot. The Emperor tries to convince Calaf to change his mind, but he refuses and begins the challenge. Turandot explains the reasons for her behaviour: in the past, the kingdom had been conquered by Tartary, and her ancestor was raped and murdered by one of them. Calaf manages to solve all of the riddles and the princess despairs. 

The Emperor must keep his word and gives Turandot to the unknown prince. However, Calaf presents a new challenge to Turandot: if she is able to discover his name by dawn, he will give her his life. Turandot accepts and the Imperial anthem is played solemnly.


Heralds call out the princess’s command that no one may sleep until the name of the unknown prince has been discovered. Calaf is also awake, dreaming of his victory and winning over icy Turandot. Liù and Timur are called before Turandot to reveal the prince’s name. To protect elderly Timur, Liù declares that she is the only one who knows the prince’s true identity, but will not reveal it. The young slave girl is tortured, but remains silent – her love gives her the strength to resist. Unable to conceal the name any longer, Liù seizes a dagger from a guard and kills herself. Her lifeless body is carried away by a funeral procession.

Puccini’s Turandot ends here. The last two scenes were written by Alfano:

When Turandot and Calaf are alone, he kisses her. Turandot admits she is attracted to the prince, even though she was initially scared of him.  As she is very proud, she begs him to not humiliate her. Calaf then reveals that his name is: “Calaf, son of Timur”, placing his life in her hands. The next day, in front of the royal palace, Turandot makes a public declaration that the prince’s true name is “Love”. The princess, now in love, falls into Calaf’s arms and the crowd rejoices.