Turandot: Puccini's Last Opera
Laryngeal cancer's role in Puccini's final gem
Posted: Tuesday, March 24th
Charlotte, NC - One of the most praised names in the opera world, Giacomo Puccini is the genius behind some of the most magnificent operas, including his seminal works Madama Butterfly, La bohème, and Turandot; all three rank in Opera America’s top 20 most-performed operas in the US. However, at his death in November of 1924, Puccini left his final opera, Turandot, incomplete. In his memory, protégée Franco Alfano completed the opera based on the sketches Puccini left behind. At the opera’s premiere in April 1926, Arturo Toscanini conducted through the end of Puccini’s original score. At this point, he turned to the audience and declared, “This marks the end of the opera left unfinished by the Maestro, because at this point he died.” Cries of “Viva Puccini!” rang out as the curtain was lowered. Toscanini edited Alfano’s interpretation to create “Alfano II,” now the most common full version of Puccini’s opera.
Who was Puccini?
Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy on December 22, 1858. After seeing Verdi’s Aïda in March 1876, Puccini decided opera was to be his life's work. In 1880 Puccini enrolled at the Milan Conservatory where he worked diligently at his music and received his diploma in 1883. Twenty years separate the premieres of Giacomo Puccini's first opera, Le Villi, from the premiere of his sixth opera, Madama Butterfly. In those twenty years, Puccini had become the acknowledged heir to the great Giuseppe Verdi as the leading composer of Italian opera, blazing a trail of success that moved opera into new realms of realism.
It’s unfair to say that Puccini left Turandot unfinished; he simply had no time to finish it. He began in March of 1920, and by February 1924, Act III was almost complete. A lifelong smoker, Puccini was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 1924. By autumn 1924, Puccini’s chronic sore throat escalated and in November he left for a set of groundbreaking radiotherapy treatments in Brussels – taking with him 36 pages of notes and sketches for Turandot’s finale and the promise of frequent communication with Toscanini, who was to conduct the scheduled premiere. Twenty days into treatment, he underwent surgery that left him unable to speak and he died of a heart attack four days later on November 29, 1924 in Brussels. Italy declared a national state of mourning. A tragic end yielded a remarkable work.
Turandot will be performed at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center April 16 at 7:30 p.m., April 18 at 8:00 p.m. & April 19 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 704.372.1000 or visit us at www.operacarolina.org. Full cast listings and bios are available at Opera Carolina Cast Bios. To download images of this production please visit Opera Carolina Media Photos. Current images available include headshots, producttion photos, and the Opera Carolina logo.
Turandot is sung in Italian with projected English titles and is recommended for G audiences. All performances feature the Opera Carolina Chorus and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. This production is made possible by Presenting Sponsors Margaret and Price Zimmermann, and The Hearst Corporation. Principal Artists sponsored by Drs. Ki-Hyun and Sun Shin Chun. Additional support provided by Duke Energy, Faison, U.S. Airways, and Blue Restaurant & Bar. Media support provided by The Charlotte Observer. Consistently appearing in The Charlotte Observer’s “101 Things to Do in Charlotte,” check Opera Carolina off the list and be a part of the 2008/2009 season!
Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, Opera Carolina today is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of over $3.5 million. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, Music Theater, and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.
Opera Carolina is supported by the Arts & Science Council-Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Inc. and The North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of North Carolina. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.
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