Puccini Masterpiece To Close Current Kentucky Opera Season!

By Henry C. Mayer

Kentucky Opera's season finale, "Turandot" by Giacomo Puccini, will be presented on March 24 and 30, with a matinee performance on April 1.

Maestro Joe Rescigno, who will direct it, noted that "it has some of the most beautiful music ever written, from the remarkable chorus in Act I through the dramatic arias in Act III. They include the trio of the three royal entourage, the duets between Liu and Calaf and Calaf and Turandot."

Rescigno has been Artistic Director of the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee for the past 19 years; his far-reaching expertise embraces Italian, French and German masterpieces. James Robinson will direct the production. The cast will be headed by Caroline Whisnant in the title role, which has challenged many of the world's most gifted dramatic sopranos, including Lotte Lehmann, Maria Jeritza, Maria Callas and Brigit Nilsson.

"Turandot" is discernably different from Puccini's other works. It had its beginnings in conversations hetween the composer and his librettists during the winter of 1919-1920, when Puccini made it clear he wanted "something different." It is a fairy tale with flesh and blood characters and, while not the composer's masterpiece, it certainly ranks with near the top.

Puccini said of the opera that "never have I worked so hard." He experienced severe throat pains and had to be hospitalized in Brussels for surgery. The surgery was successful but his heart could not stand the strain and he died on November 29, 1924, leaving two concluding scenes unfinished, which were completed by an talented Italian contemporary of the "verismo school, Franco Albano. The premiere took place in Milan's La Scala Theatre in 1926.