Turandot by Ferruccio Busoni

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Turandot by Ferruccio Busoni

Ferruccio Busoni was a genuis when it came to opera, despite being overshadowed by other composers such as Puccini, Beethoven, Bizet and Mozart. Born on the 1st April 1866 in Empoli near Florence and passed away on the 27th July 1924 in Berlin, Busoni presented interesting artistic concepts. He was able to develop a highly simulated style in his works, giving intermittent mocking references to the language of Romantic music.

Born to a German mother and Italian father, Busoni’s full name was Ferruccio Dante Michelangiolo Benventuto Busoni. He studied music in Graz and became well known even at a tender age. In 1888, Busoni began a teaching career, a job that took him to Moscow, Boston and Helsinki. When World War I started, he moved to Zurich and stayed here until offered a master class in composition in Berlin in 1920.

Turnandot in a Chinese fable in two acts. The libretto was produced by Ferruccio Busoni, who based it on the play of the same name by Carlo Gozzi. It first premiered on the 11th May 1917 in Zurich at the Stadttheatre. It is set ‘once upon a time’ in China.


Altoum, the emperor (Bass)

Turnandot, the daughter of the emperor (Soprano)

Adelma, the princess’ confidante (Mezzo-Soprano)

Calaf (Tenor)

Barach, his follower (Baritone)

The Queen Mother of Samarkand, a mooress (Soprano)

Truffaldino, the head eunuch (Tenor)

Pantalone and Tartaglia, both ministers (Bass, Bass)

Eight Doctors (4 x Tebors, 4 x Bass)

A Choir Leader (Mezzo-Soprano)

The executioner, a priest, slaves, soldiers (silent)

Altoum’s retinue, women, eunuchs and the people (the Chorus)

Wailers (girls’ voices) Dancers.


The beautiful Princess Turnandot, the daughter of the emperor of China, is being courted by Prince Calaf. However, before she marries, she sets all her suitors three questions they must answer. If they are unable to answer these, they will be beheaded.

However, unlike the rest of the suitors seeking the princess’ hand in marriage, Prince Calaf is able to answer all her questions correctly. This infuriates the princess, who does not relish the idea of marriage. However, Prince Calaf gives her a way out. If she can guess who he is, then she will be free of him.

Adelma, Turnandot’s confidante, had once hoped to marry Prince Calaf herself but gives away his origins now in revenge.

Despite this, Turnandot realises that she does love him, especially since he did not have to keep his promise and so, marries him.


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