March 20, 2017

Turandot: how that final duet might have been fixed

.Everyone knows why Giacomo Puccini did not complete the composition of Turandot.
Puccini in old age

He died. Complications from throat cancer - a heart attack three days following surgery to remove a tumor.

But if you read Puccini's letters to his collaborators, you begin to realize that while dying was a "contributing factor" (granted, a really really big one), it was not the only explanation for his failure to finish the thing.

The truth is that Puccini struggled with the final confrontational duet between the Unknown Prince and the Ice Princess. This was a struggle that went on for months, as a few excerpts from the letters will illustrate.

I am afraid that Turandot will never be finished. (November 1920)

I am in despair as black as night. ...One thing is certain: we must inspire the ... thing with life. As it stands now, it is absolutely impossible, all wrong. ...I know that the subject is not easily convincing... (September 1921)

Turandot gives me no peace. ...I think that perhaps we are on the wrong track... ...the duet in its present form doesn't seem to me to be what is wanted. ...My life is a torture because I fail to see in this opera all the throbbing life and power which are neessary in a work for the theater if it is to endure and hold. (November, 1921)

I am in black despair about Turandot. (November 1921)

I feel that this act as it is does not convince me and cannot convince the listener. (November 1921)

ALL the above quotes (and there are more, but you get the gist) were written two years before he even began to suffer the symptoms of the cancer, and three years before his death.

So what did he find unconvincing? Whence the epic writer's block? Whence all the despair?

To answer, I'll summarize what I, Your Humble Blogger, see as the problems with the opera's final 15 minutes; that duet Puccini hoped would be like "a shining meteor". There are three issues, to wit:

1. THE SOPRANO WE LIKED IS DEAD. 
Unable to stomach an opera lacking a sympathetic female character, Puccini added the slave girl Liù. Now he had a worthy successor to Mimi, Cio-Cio-san and Suor Angelica: ultra-feminine, delicate, sweet, nurturing, living for love, and (of course) doomed - in short, an Italian man's fantasy of the Ideal Woman. From the moment at the top of Act I when Liù signals her hopeless devotion to the Prince by wafting a delicately shimmering high note as she recalls the time the Prince smiled at her, Puccini's audience has her pegged. Every one of us melts into a gooey grease spot; she has seduced us. We don't just like her, we LOVE her, and from that moment until her death, she's the one we identify with.

Then, with the opera nearly over, she sacrifices herself and she's GONE.

And before we have a chance to remove the lump in our throats and wipe the tears from our eyes, a harsh reality settles in: the one we loved is gone and we're left with the strident, homicidal, unlikeable harpy.

And we're supposed to transfer all our affection to the harpy, and exult in her happy ending. This is the aspect that Puccini knew was "unconvincing".

2. THE KISS IS A FAIRY-TALE MOMENT IN AN OPERA THAT CAN'T QUIT BEING VERISMO.
As pointed out in an earlier post, Puccini was attempting to make a late-career shift from intimate, realistic, "truthful" (verismo) operas to a full-out fairy tale: exotic fantasy with a happy ending. The biggest contrast is that while verismo characters are complex and three-dimensional, fairy-tale characters are flat -- one-dimensional. Witches are mean, princes are brave, princesses are beautiful. Or in this case, beautiful and violent. But old habits die hard, and the insertion of Liù, the fairy-tale shallowness was compromised; Puccini could not resist engaging our emotions as in the past.

As it happens, another nearly contemporary opera about Turandot appeared in 1917, by the composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni, took a far different approach. This Turandot is a comic piece filled with quirky irony. I don't know if Busoni's work drew Puccini's attention, but he went in the opposite direction: due north towards the humanity in all his operas.

So the idea of a "magical kiss" that instantly turns a domineering vengeful monster into a quivering, weeping, vulnerable woman now open to love...  is a Sleeping Beauty moment in an opera that has just depicted an all-too-tragic and believable scene of suicide. Now we've added another unconvincing element.

3. CALAF'S "SEDUCTION" IS CREEPY; IT'S A SEXUAL ASSAULT.
In last week's post I floated the theory that the Prince is driven more by THANATOS (the human instinct inspiring hatred, aggression and death) than EROS (the instinct to seek love and life). He never says "I love you" to Turandot; instead (at the end of the aria "Nessun dorma") he says "I will win, I will win!"

This attitude turns what one might expect to be a conventional "love duet" into something more resembling T-Rex versus King Kong - a contest of strength between two dominant beings. This adds a disturbing note when it comes to that final scene. Here's a transcript of the Prince's "seduction":

THE UNKNOWN PRINCE 
Your spirit is on high! But your body is near. With burning hands I’ll clasp the gold border of your starry cloak... My trembling mouth will be pressed on yours... 

TURANDOT 
Do not profane me! 

THE UNKNOWN PRINCE 
Ah! To feel you alive! 

TURANDOT 
Stand back! Do not profane me! 

THE UNKNOWN PRINCE 
I want you to be mine! 

TURANDOT Touch me not, it is a sacrilege! 

THE UNKNOWN PRINCE 
No, your kiss gives me eternity! 

TURANDOT 
Sacrilege! 

And then, as the tympani pound repeatedly, he plants a lengthy kiss on her. See the problem? If you don't, you haven't watched NEARLY enough episodes of "Law and Order: SVU", because guess what? It's 2017, and "NO MEANS NO". Pay special attention to that line above: "Your iciness is a lie". Oh brother - that's the same lame excuse every randy high-school boy gives when he's forced his date in the back seat of his car: "She may have said 'no', but I could tell she really wanted it."

It's lucky for the Prince he lives in fabled times, because these days he could be arrested for assault. Even cutting him all possible slack on the theory that "hey, it's just a fairy tale", no one who finds the dialogue above creepy and inappropriate can be blamed.

Three problems, at least two of which were driving Puccini into frustrated depression. (I doubt that the Prince's sexual aggression bothered him, given the patriarchal culture in which he lived.)

AND NOW: MY SOLUTION. Yes, yes, no one asked me, but it's fun to apply oneself to FIXING A MASTERPIECE.

 In her post-kiss daze, Turandot sings her final aria "Del primo pianto" in which she explores her new state of mind. Pay special attention to this portion of the text:

How many I’ve seen die for me! 
And I scorned them; but you, I feared!
In your eyes there was the light of heroes! 
In your eyes there was haughty certainty... 
And for that I hated you... And I loved you for that, 

This is really important - it finally explains why Turandot could respond to this Prince and not the ones she killed. Calaf has caused a flare-up in the battle of opposite instincts. "For that I hated you" - Thanatos! "For that I loved you" - Eros! As I pointed out in my previous post, this single line indicates that each character sees a reflection of themselves in the other. The trouble is, this crucial revelation comes literally in the last ten minutes of the opera. It feels tacked on, like the tail in a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Perhaps, had Puccini lived, it might have occurred to him to introduce Turandot's duality of Eros and Thanatos earlier in the opera instead of the "tail" end (pardon the pun.) He might have realized that Ping Pang and Pong get an inordinate of time onstage for supporting characters.

With that in mind, he could have decided to trim some of their material in Act 2 or Act 3 to make room for a short scene of Turandot in her bed chamber. Her chamber-maid is brushing the princess's hair as Turandot confides her mixed feelings about the stranger who dares to challenge her. She describes her mixture of attraction and revulsion. Then, when she delivers the aria in the finale, it might NOT seem tacked on; it might explain everything.

Oh, and as long as we're re-writing the libretto, let's give our politically incorrect Prince a different strategy in the duet. He could, you know, charm her. He could shock her by admitting his name and saying "You have every right to have me killed now that you know my name, but I don't think you will. I think you know that our destinies are linked forever. I think you want to fall in love at last." Or some such operatic nonsense. Great music could make it work.

Oh, and he should also get over his aversion to the "L" word. C'mon, man, let's pop out a few declarations of "Io t'amo" - you can do this!

The point is, pity poor Franco Alfano. He did not have the luxury of "tweaking" the libretto; his job was to set it to music, as imperfect as he may have found it. And the ultimate point? If the final duet seems unsatisfactory to you, don't be judgemental! Puccini, had he lived, would have lived up to the ideals his perfectionist nature demanded. He knew the finale was not as effective as the rest of the opera. He would have continued his struggle to render a powerful conclusion. The finale would have been different. from the one we have today, to an extent we can, sadly, never know

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    ReplyDelete
  18. join the brotherhood of Illuminati. call +2349033945083 ENGR. DONATUS Nigeria, USA, or anywhere in the world today be rich, fame, and posses power.email us on jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com or call us on +2349033945083 for immediate initiation new members registration is now open online now !!!!!
    benefits given to new members who join illuminati.
    a cash reward of usd $120,000000 usd
    a new sleek dream car valued at usd $120,000 usd
    a dream house bought in the country of your own choice
    one month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
    one year golf membership package
    a v.i.p treatment in all airports in the world
    a total lifestyle change
    access to bohemian grove
    monthly payment of $1,000,000 usd into your bank account every month as a member
    one month booked appointment with top 5 world leaders and top 5 celebrities in the world.
    if you are interested call Engr. Donatus now +2349033945083 or send your e-mail to jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com for immediately initiation.new members registration is now open online. 

    ReplyDelete
  19. join the brotherhood of Illuminati. call +2349033945083 ENGR. DONATUS Nigeria, USA, or anywhere in the world today be rich, fame, and posses power.email us on jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com or call us on +2349033945083 for immediate initiation new members registration is now open online now !!!!!
    benefits given to new members who join illuminati.
    a cash reward of usd $120,000000 usd
    a new sleek dream car valued at usd $120,000 usd
    a dream house bought in the country of your own choice
    one month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
    one year golf membership package
    a v.i.p treatment in all airports in the world
    a total lifestyle change
    access to bohemian grove
    monthly payment of $1,000,000 usd into your bank account every month as a member
    one month booked appointment with top 5 world leaders and top 5 celebrities in the world.
    if you are interested call Engr. Donatus now +2349033945083 or send your e-mail to jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com for immediately initiation.new members registration is now open online. 

    ReplyDelete
  20. join the brotherhood of Illuminati. call +2349033945083 ENGR. DONATUS Nigeria, USA, or anywhere in the world today be rich, fame, and posses power.email us on jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com or call us on +2349033945083 for immediate initiation new members registration is now open online now !!!!!
    benefits given to new members who join illuminati.
    a cash reward of usd $120,000000 usd
    a new sleek dream car valued at usd $120,000 usd
    a dream house bought in the country of your own choice
    one month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination.
    one year golf membership package
    a v.i.p treatment in all airports in the world
    a total lifestyle change
    access to bohemian grove
    monthly payment of $1,000,000 usd into your bank account every month as a member
    one month booked appointment with top 5 world leaders and top 5 celebrities in the world.
    if you are interested call Engr. Donatus now +2349033945083 or send your e-mail to jointheilluminatinigeria@gmail.com for immediately initiation.new members registration is now open online. 

    ReplyDelete
  21. today am a happy woman because of what Dr Gozza has done for me and am here to testify to everyone here on this forum how this man helped me win my husband back after he has left me and my 4 months daughter to go after another lady who used powers and lies to deceive my husband , it was a terrible situations for me till i storm into this woman who shared a story about Dr Gozza of hollygozzasolutiontemple@gmail.com, of Facebook just the way am sharing it today now , so i said let me give it a try and after i have explained to this man DR GOZZA from the united state he told me to calm down for there is no problem without a solution so he did his work , prayers, and told me to wait for 48 hours to receive a call, or messages from my husband , i was just like how will this happen , but it was 8 am on that faithful day when i got an apology text from my husband , saying he is so sorry for everything , i quickly take my phone to contact Dr Gozza and inform he that my man has texted me and that was how i got my husband back and today we are one happy family again, so with this great work done for me by DR Gozza hollygozzasolutiontemple@gmail.com, i have decided to share to world about he so whosoever suffering from heart break, marriage problems breakup , cheating spouse, can also contact he today on his email and i know and believe they will also be helped , because today am a living testimony of his good work call or whatapp on his number.+2349067051818
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    Goodbye

    ReplyDelete
  22. Good news!!! Good news!!!, Do you want to live a rich,healthy and famous life. Do you want to get rich immediately and be out of suffering? Do you want the world to recognize you and listen to you when you speak? do you want to be in power and control? if yes, here is a good tip just join the “ILLUMINATI ORGANISATION”, you may ask “How Can I Join” , the answer is simple all you have to do is to contact us at our Email address(illuminatikingdom11@gmail.com) or by calling us at (+2349036492096 or +1 918-505-9468) or you can also visit us Whatsapp (+2349036492096) ELEVATE YOURSELF FROM POVERTY..

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    THANKS…….

    TEAM REGARDS
    PLAN ILLUMINATION

    ReplyDelete
  23. My people i bring to you good news, and this is my joy and happiness. people say To become a member of the illuminati is a very difficult task. but i bring to your notice that to become a bonafide member of the brotherhood have been made very easy. sometime ago i was just eager to become a member, and i meant so many persons who never showed me the right way. few months ago i saw so many people testifying of how agent adams linked them up, and they become a complete member of the brotherhood. so i decided to contact Mr adams who gave me the right link to become a member. i followed all the steps, and today i am a proud member of the brotherhood of Illuminati. so i want you all to help me say a big thanks to agent adams. In case you have been aspiring to become a member of the brotherhood, and you have not meet the right person before now, i want to tell you to quickly contact the right Illuminati agent now. he is no other person than Mr adams. the mission of the brotherhood now is to wipe away suffering and hardship away from the life of all. so if you are a business man/woman, an artist, a pastor, a working class, and do you want wealth,fame,protection,long life, prosperity just name it just as i have now, the illuminati is ready to help you achieve your dreams.contact agent adams on the illuminati email: illuminatiworldfamous6@gmail.com or call him on +2348101330336 and become a legitimate member, join us today and become rich, powerful

    ReplyDelete
  24. GOOD NEWS!!! Are you a business man? Business woman ? Artist? Politicians? Student? Etc...And you want to become big, Powerful and famous in the world, join us to become one of our official member today. you shall be given a ideal chance to visit the illuminati and his representative after registrations is completed by you, no sacrifice or human life needed, Illuminati brotherhood brings along wealth and famous in life, you have a full access to eradicate poverty away from your life now. It only a member who is been initiated into the church of illuminati have the authority to bring any member to the church,so before you contact any body you must be link by who is already a member, Join us today and realize your dreams. We also help out member in protection of drugs pushing. Magic Rings on sale !!! Once you become a member you will be rich and famous for the rest of your life, illuminati make there member happy so i will want you all to also be a member of the illuminati if you are interested kindly fill the form below to the below email address. (illuminatiwealth6666@gmail.com)
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. GOOD NEWS!!! Are you a business man? Business woman ? Artist? Politicians? Student? Etc...And you want to become big, Powerful and famous in the world, join us to become one of our official member today. you shall be given a ideal chance to visit the Illuminati and his representative after registrations is completed by you, no sacrifice or human life needed, Illuminati brotherhood brings along wealth and famous in life, you have a full access to eradicate poverty away from your life now. It only a member who is been initiated into the church of Illuminati have the authority to bring any member to the church,so before you contact any body you must be link by who is already a member, Join us today and realize your dreams. We also help out member in protection of drugs pushing. Magic Rings on sale !!! Once you become a member you will be rich and famous for the rest of your life, Illuminati make there member happy so i will want you all to also be a member of the Illuminati if you are interested kindly fill the form below to the below email address. (lucifermoney9666@gmail.com)
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      Delete
  25. GREETINGS FROM THE GREAT GRAND MASTER! IN REGARDS OF YOU BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE GREAT ILLUMINATI, WE WELCOME YOU. Be part of something special and profitable(WELC
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    ER,KMOWLEDGE AND WEALTH!!! Become a. Member today and make use of these"GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY" the great illuminati organisation will make you famous and wealthy, it pull you out from the grass root and take you to a greater height were you have long aspired to be and together we shall rule the world with the great and mighty power of the illuminati, long life and prosperity here on earth with eternal life and jubilation.CONTACT US TODAY VIA EMAIL illuminatipriest994@gmail.com or WhatsApp +2348119020900

    ReplyDelete
  26. GREETINGS FROM THE GREAT GRAND MASTER! IN REGARDS OF YOU BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE GREAT ILLUMINATI, WE WELCOME YOU. Be part of something special and profitable(WELC
    OME TO THE WORLD OF ILLUMINATI). Are you a PoLITICIANS,DOCTOR,ENGINEER,MO
    DEL,GRADUATE,STUDENT,BUSINESS MAN OR WOMAN seeking for WISDOM,FAME,POW
    ER,KMOWLEDGE AND WEALTH!!! Become a. Member today and make use of these"GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY" the great illuminati organisation will make you famous and wealthy, it pull you out from the grass root and take you to a greater height were you have long aspired to be and together we shall rule the world with the great and mighty power of the illuminati, long life and prosperity here on earth with eternal life and jubilation.CONTACT US TODAY VIA EMAIL illuminatipriest994@gmail.com or WhatsApp +2348119020900

    ReplyDelete
  27. GREETINGS FROM THE GREAT GRAND MASTER! IN REGARDS OF YOU BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE GREAT ILLUMINATI, WE WELCOME YOU. Be part of something special and profitable(WELC
    OME TO THE WORLD OF ILLUMINATI). Are you a PoLITICIANS,DOCTOR,ENGINEER,MO
    DEL,GRADUATE,STUDENT,BUSINESS MAN OR WOMAN seeking for WISDOM,FAME,POW
    ER,KMOWLEDGE AND WEALTH!!! Become a. Member today and make use of these"GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY" the great illuminati organisation will make you famous and wealthy, it pull you out from the grass root and take you to a greater height were you have long aspired to be and together we shall rule the world with the great and mighty power of the illuminati, long life and prosperity here on earth with eternal life and jubilation.CONTACT US TODAY VIA EMAIL illuminatipriest994@gmail.com or WhatsApp +2348119020900

    ReplyDelete
  28. If i was told that becoming a member of the great brotherhood of Illuminati is as easy as reading ABCD i would not believe, this is because i have so fall victim of scam circumstance.
    Brothers and Sisters, this is my story on how i successfully became a member of Illuminati. My name is Philip Robin, i live in Texas USA. Few years ago i lost my parents to a car accident and my mom was very ill after the death of my dad. Taking her to the hospital was hell for me because we were poor so i begin to grave for wealth and power because money rules the world.
    This prompted me to look for a society and join where i can get wealth, power and fame so i meant a friend who said he read about a post on a blog online on how to become a member of the great Illuminati so i was very interested, and i collected the contact details of the agent from my friend but behold it was a scam. I got another contact from my girlfriend i contacted, and i made some payment for my initiation, But behold again it was a scam i lost thousands of $$$ to these fake agent who pretended to help people become a member of this great cult. So i lost focus and interest in becoming a member because i don't know if the nest agent i would be introduced to will also be a scam.
    So on a very good day i meant with my cousin who told me that his best friend have successfully become a member of the brotherhood, so i was very interested and i begged him for the contact of his friend. So he gave me his friend's contact and i contacted his friend and explained myself to him so he promised to help me. He introduced me to agent Thompson Mark who is incharge of the Illuminati recruitment in USA. so i emailed agent Thompson Mark on devililluminatichurch@gmail.com and he replied me requesting for some of my information but i was afraid at this stage because i thought he would ask me to pay some money again, and off cause i was not having anymore money to pay. But i was very surprised when he told me that i don't have to pay a dine to become a member of the great brotherhood of Illuminati so i was curious to know more and he explained all to me that those who live in USA don't pay to become a member except those who live overseas i.e outside USA so in a hurry i did all that was required and i was initiated into the brotherhood.
    As i speak with you i am a confirm member of the brotherhood of Illuminati and i am very wealthy now and famous. So i bring the good news to you all. if you are in USA please you don't pay a dine to become a member but outside USA, you might be requested to pay some fee. so if you are interested and want to become a true member without being scammed in a hurry contact agent Thompson Mark on this email: devililluminatichurch@gmail.com and if you are outside the USA contact the international agent with either call or whatsApp on +2349024338906 GREAT BROTHERHOOD! GREAT ILLUMINATI

    ReplyDelete
  29. Good news!!! Good news!!!, Do you want to live a rich,healthy and famous life. Do you want to get rich immediately and be out of suffering? Do you want the world to recognize you and listen to you when you speak? do you want to be in power and control? if yes, here is a good tip just join the “ILLUMINATI ORGANISATION”, you may ask “How Can I Join” , the answer is simple all you have to do is to contact us at our Email address(illuminatikingdom11@gmail.com) or by calling us at (+2349036492096 or +1 918-505-9468) or you can also visit us Whatsapp (+2349036492096) ELEVATE YOURSELF FROM POVERTY..

    Do not hesitate to contact us.
    Phone number call: +2349036492096 or +1 918-505-9468
    Whatsapp: +2349036492096
    Email : illuminatikingdom11@gmail.com

    BEWARE OF SCAMMERS, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MEMBERSHIP FEE AND YOU MUST BE ABOVE THE AGE OF 18YRS.
    THANKS…….

    TEAM REGARDS
    PLAN ILLUMINATION

    ReplyDelete
  30. BROTHERHOOD OF ILLUMINATI Easy way to join the Illuminati brotherhood in the world. Are you a business man or woman,

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    ReplyDelete