Though Puccini first became interested in the subject matter when reading Friedrich Schiller's 1801 adaptation, he based his work more closely on the earlier play Turandot (1762) by Count Carlo Gozzi.
The opera's version of the story is set in China. It involves Prince Calaf, who falls in love with the cold Princess Turandot. In order to obtain permission to marry her, a suitor must solve three riddles. Any single wrong answer will result in the suitor's execution. Calaf passes the test, but Turandot refuses to marry him. He offers her a way out: if she is able to guess his name before dawn the next day, he will accept death. In the original story by Nizami, the princess sets four conditions: firstly "a good name and good deeds", and then the three challenges. As with Madama Butterfly, Puccini strove for a semblance of Asian authenticity (at least to Western ears) by integrating music from the region. Up to eight of the musical themes in Turandot appear to be based on traditional Chinese music and anthems, and the melody of a Chinese song "Jasmine", became a motif for the princess.
Puccini left the opera unfinished at the time of his death in 1924; Franco Alfano completed it in 1926. The first performance took place at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25, 1926, conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Turandot - Birgit Nilsson
Calaf - Franco Corelli
Liu - Galina Viscnjevskaja
Timous - Nicola Zaccaria
La Scala Opera
Gianandrea Gavazzeni - Conductor
LIVE - 1964