Giacomo Puccini entered the world on this day in 1858, so it’s time to add another track to the opera playlist. I’ve chosen Tu, che di gel sei cinta, from Turandot sung by the wonderful Anna Netrebko in the role of Liu.
Unusually for Puccini, Turandot has a happy ending, although not for poor old Liu, who **spoiler alert** tops herself in Act 3. Suicide seems to be a bit of a theme for Puccini (remember Tosca and the castle wall, Cho-Cho-San and the sword?). And not just on-stage. In real life, one of the Puccini maids took her own life, but as this was after his big operas had been released, it couldn’t have influenced his thinking. But in Turandot, the man does get the girl, who is healthy and not dying of consumption.
Puccini died before he could finish the opera, and I wonder if Alfano tampered with the master’s wishes in finishing it. It would have been so much more Puccini-esque if the eponymous ice maiden had insisted on Calaf’s execution THEN decided that she loved him and taken her own life.
You might ask why we don’t just consult the original libretto? The problem is that Puccini was liberal in his interpretation. Apparently, Liu never appeared in the original; she was added. Was it so that he could use some of the beautiful arias he’d written? Or was it because he wanted another female suicide? I doubt we’ll ever know.
Tu, che di gel sei cinta from Turandot by Giacomo Puccini