turandot redux

One last little bit of Turandot

A reader reminded me that I had discussed the tangled history of Turandot‘s completion during my talk, and that I mentioned that I would post both the complete Franco Alfano ending (usually referred to as Alfano I) and the finale that Puccini’s publisher, Ricordi, commissioned from the composer Luciano Berio in 2001. (Thanks, Jo!)

First off, then, is Franco Alfano’s original and uncut ending for Turandot, with Josephine Barstow, Lando Bartolini, and the Scottish Opera Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri.

And from the CD “Puccini Discoveries,” here’s Luciano Berio’s very different take on the final scene of the opera. In this recording,  the role of Calaf is sung by Bülent Bezdüz, Eva Urbanová sings Turandot, and Riccardo Chailly conducts the Orchestra e Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.

Alfano and Berio used the sketches and continuity drafts Puccini left at the time of his death in 1924, but given the incomplete nature of those materials, both composers felt the need to exercise a certain amount of creative license in order to fill in gaps. Since Alfano was denied access to Puccini’s orchestrated score of Turandot up until just a few weeks before his completion was due to be submitted for review by Ricordi and Arturo Toscanini, his choice of instrumentation for the final scene often differs significantly from Puccini.

Berio’s “solution” to the problem of the ending is, I think, quite effective, mainly because it uses snatches of Liu’s music to remind us that this character played an important part in the shaping of the drama in Act 3. Her memory hangs, in a sense, over Turandot’s thaw like a low grey cloud.



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One response to “turandot redux

  1. Ah, finally I got to this. You are, of course, quite right about Berio being quite different. At one point, I thought I definitely preferred the singers, but they ended up almost yelling. The orchestration didn’t grab me either. This will take more than one listening to give a fair shake.
    OTOH, the Alfano as almost a cariacature of Puccini – which I liked. The emotionality was moving, as always. The final 30-seconds or so were very cinematic, but then, the whole opera had cinematic moments. Also, the ending contained chords that almost demanded a standing ovation, don’t you think?
    So, if I had to pick a favorite right now, I’d go with Alfano. But as I said, I’ll have to drag out my old CDs of Turandot and play them before I come up with a definitive personal ranking.
    At any rate, thank you very much, for putting up these snippets!!!

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