The activities in this guide address several aspects of Turandot:
The protagonists’ fateful decisions at the heart of the story
Puccini’s musical technique and the way it heightens suspense and enriches character relationships
The composer’s eclectic mix of Asian sounds, traditional Italian melody, and a contemporary musical language
The range of creative choices in the staging and design of this visually stunning Metropolitan Opera production
The guide is designed to provoke interest in Turandot, whether or not your students have any prior acquaintance with opera. It can help you prompt them to think about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a medium of entertainment and as creative expression.
A Close Look at Calàf's Big Gamble
Early in Act I of Turandot, the Tartar prince Calàf denounces the cruelty of Turandot, princess of China. Turandot has proclaimed that she will marry the man who can solve her three riddles, but any suitor who fails to answer correctly must die. When the princess makes a brief appearance, Calàf is transfixed by her beauty. Against all counsel, he takes up her challenge. This would seem to be an unwise decision—except that by the end of the opera, Calàf has won Turandot’s hand. But what if things had gone differently? Who would have suffered the consequences? In this activity, students will consider the ethical implications of Calàf’s decision.
Review the plot of the opera
Identify the stakeholders in Calàf’s decision
Consider the implications for every stakeholder
Debate the ethics of the decision