Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 July 2004
This study of the ending customarily appended to Giacomo Puccini's unfinished Turandot offers a new perspective on its genesis: that of its principal creator, Franco Alfano. Following Puccini's death in November 1924, the press overstated the amount of music that he had completed for the opera's climactic duet and final scene. In fact, Puccini's manuscripts were so disjointed that Arturo Toscanini, the conductor chosen to lead the première, drafted the reluctant Alfano to fashion them into a viable conclusion. While occupied with this assignment, Alfano spoke with the writer Raymond Roussel about his plans for the opera's completion. This long-forgotten interview, absent from previous studies of Turandot's conclusion, reveals a strategy that would inevitably fall foul of Toscanini's expectations. Rejecting Alfano's first attempt for its extensive original composition, Toscanini forced changes on the conclusion that undermine both its musical coherence and dramatic logic. I assess Alfano's original ending in light of his frustration with Puccini's sketches, as well as the generally deleterious result of Toscanini's interventions. While neither conclusion represents an ideal solution, a judicious conflation of the two versions offers the best chance of reconciling a suitable denouement with the musical character of Puccini's finished score.