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01 November 2005



Had the libretto adhered more closely to Gozzi's play, the character of Turandot would have manifested more humanity. In the play, she did not expect anyone to take up her challenge. It is her portrait that drives suitors to answer her riddle.

In any event, Calaf is no hero. Indeed, it certainly could be argued that he is more morally repugnant than Turandot. He is bedazzled by Turandot's beauty and fails to recognize true love (Liu) when it is plainly before him. Consider the context in which he sings "Nessun dorma." Turandot is having tortures conducted to learn the secret of his riddle; yet all Calaf can think of is what awaits the morning:

Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza guardi le stelle che tremano d'amore e di speranza.

Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me, il nome mio nessun saprà! Solo
quando la luce splenderà, sulla tua bocca lo dirò, fremente! Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio che ti fa mia!

The last Act, in my opinion, is intended to be a scene of transfiguration and redemption of Turandot àla Wagner or Strauss. Yet, Calaf remains the same, yet is the beneficiary of her transformation by becoming the object of her new-found ability to love. A happy ending, I suppose; but morally ambiguous at best.

Gary Hoffman

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