Though Puccini's first interest in the subject was based on his reading of Friedrich Schiller's adaptation of the play, his work is most nearly based on the earlier text Turandot by Carlo Gozzi. The original story is based on the epic Turan-Dokht from the book Haft-Peykar, work of 12th-century Persian poet Nizami. The opera's story is set in China and involves Prince Calàf, who falls in love with the cold Princess Turandot. To obtain permission to marry her, a suitor has to solve three riddles; any wrong answer results in death. Calàf passes the test, but Turandot still refuses to marry him. He offers her a way out: if she is able to learn his name before dawn the next day, then at daybreak he will die.
The opera was unfinished at the time of Puccini's death in 1924, and was completed by Franco Alfano in 1926. The first performance was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25, 1926 and conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This 1972 recording stars Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti. Zubin Mehta conducts.