Music: Two Faces of Turandot

"All the music I have written up to now," said Giacomo Puccini, "seems a jest in comparison." He was speaking of his last and most ambitious opera, Turandot, which he left unfinished at his death in 1924. Completed by his friend Franco Alfano, Turandot is rarely performed despite the exotic splendors of its score. Chief reasons for its neglect: a certain harshness that sets it apart from the big Puccini favorites (Tosca, Bohème, Butterfly), some devilishly difficult vocal parts, and a need for sumptuous staging.

Last week two of the world's leading opera houses—East...

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