Enjoy Puccini’s famed final opera with this dazzling production from Franco Zeffirelli, set in China and starring soprano Christine Goerke in the title role. “Great Performances at the Met: Turandot” is premiering on Arizona PBS Friday, Mar. 10, at 8 p.m.
The show is set in the mystic past in Peking, China. Outside the Imperial Palace, an announcement is made: any prince seeking to marry Turandot must answer three riddles. If he fails, he will die. The most recent suitor who failed at this task, the Prince of Persia, will be executed at the moon’s rising. Among the onlookers are the slave girl, Liù, her elderly master and the young Calàf, who recognizes the master as his long-lost father, Timur, vanquished king of Tartary. As the Prince of Persia goes to his death, the crowd calls upon the princess to spare him, but Turandot orders the execution to continue. Transfixed by the princess’ beauty, Calàf decides he’s going to win her. Three ministers of state try to discourage him, but Calàf is unmoved and strikes the gong that announces a new suitor.
Turandot’s father, Emperor Altoum, tries to persuade Calàf to reconsider his decision, but he will not be dissuaded. Turandot arrives and recounts the story of her ancestor who was abducted and killed by a conquering prince. She reveals this has turned her against men and her revenge is not letting any man marry her. Turandot then poses her three riddles to Calàf who answers them all correctly. The crowd erupts in joy and the princess begs her father not to give her to the stranger. Hoping he can win her love, Calàf presents Turandot with a challenge of his own: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.