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The Washington National Opera (WNO) presents a new production of Puccini’s Turandot with a new ending by two-time Grammy Award® winner Christopher Tin (composer) and Emmy Award® winner Susan Soon He Stanton (librettist). Artistic Director Francesca Zambello directs the new production, which marks the 100th anniversary of the premiere of the opera and Puccini’s death. Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci leads the WNO Orchestra.

“As an Italian American and an opera director, I love Puccini’s work,” said Zambello. “But Turandot, which traces its origin to Persian folklore, contains stereotypes about China and women that Alfano’s hastily assembled ending only reinforced. The fact that Puccini did not live to finish it gives us an opportunity to reconsider this incredible character. For this production, I have commissioned a new ending by two incredible Asian American artists who are providing fresh perspectives to this beloved work.”

Tin, the first composer to win a Grammy Award® for Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media (“Baba Yetu”), and Stanton, producer and writer of Succession, created this new ending from where Puccini left off when he died before completing the opera—after Liù’s suicide when Turandot and Calaf are left alone on the stage. “As a playwright, I always like to explore the inner feeling of a character,” said Stanton. “The scene that proceeds after Liù’s death is the first time Turandot and Calaf are alone together. It allows them to express their complicated emotions. For me, it is important to elaborate on their psychological transformations so to reach a more logical resolution of the end.”

“What excites me about this project is that this is a chance to fulfill Puccini’s vision in the way he would have wanted,” said Tin. “Alfano’s ending has always felt incomplete because it doesn’t address the plot in a satisfactory way and even paints Princess Turandot in an unflattering light. In this new ending, we hope to create a three-dimensional Turandot whose transformation from selfish sadist to an empathetic leader and lover is not only believable but inspiring, and perhaps even sparks a dialogue about the nature of leadership in today’s society.”

Zambello’s production situates China as a cultural crossroads—much as it was at the height of the Silk Road—in which people were arriving from many different places and cultures. That multiculturism is reflected in the costumes designed by Tony Award® winner Linda Cho. The set by Drama Desk Award nominee Wilson Chin consists of monumental scaffolding that invokes authoritative regimes of the 20th century.

“Debuting a title like Turandot at the Kennedy Center is a great honor for me, especially in Puccini’s anniversary year 2024,” said Speranza Scappucci. “This production will include the world premiere of a new ending composed by Christopher Tin and libretto by Susan Stanton. As I study the new music, I admire Mr. Tin’s ability to offer new material in the style of Puccini, so that musically the ending feels like a natural continuation of what we have heard during the previous acts.”

In the title role is Polish soprano Ewa Płonka, praised for her “brilliant high notes of her high-class voice” by Das Opernglas. The “gifted tenor” (The New York Times) Yonghoon Lee performs the role of Calaf. Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha makes her American operatic debut performing as Liù. In a rare stage appearance, legendary tenor Neil Shicoff makes a cameo as Emperor Altoum.

Engaging Our Community
Washington National Opera continues its tradition of using opera as a lens through which to explore important issues and connect with the community with these engagement initiatives:

A Turandot for Today Exhibit, April–May
WNO partners with the Chinese American Museum in D.C. for a special exhibit that runs from mid-April through the end of May. The displays include letters from and a video featuring the Turandot creatives where they share their inspiration, as well as renderings of the costumes and set design for this new production. The exhibit is included in the price of admission to visit the Chinese American Museum. For tickets, visit https://www.chineseamericanmuseum.org.

A Turandot for Today Community Conversation, May 5, 2024 at 3 p.m.
WNO will hold a panel discussion on Sunday, May 5 at 3 p.m. on the themes from Turandot and featuring WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello; composer Christopher Tin; and librettist Susan Soon He Stanton, moderated by Dr. Eric Hing-Tao Hung, Executive Director of the Music of Asian America Research Center (MAARC), and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Maryland. The discussion is followed by light refreshments and an opportunity to meet the panelists. Location to be announced.

The Christopher Tin Sing-In, May 7, 2024, 6 p.m.
WNO in partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra hosts The Christopher Tin Sing-In on Thursday, May 7, 2024, from 6–7 p.m. in Studio K at the REACH, led by legendary video game, film and concert composer Christopher Tin. This free event—open to the public—will feature Tin leading participants in a rehearsal of “Baba Yetu,” and “Sogno di Volare” both from the videogame Civilization franchise, followed by the opportunity to learn some of the new finale Tin composed for Puccini’s Turandot. The event is free but registration in advance is required, as space is limited. To register, visit kennedy-center.org.

Music by Giacomo Puccini and Christopher Tin
Libretto by Giuseppe Adami, Renato Simoni, and Susan Soon He Stanton

May 11–25, 2024 in the Opera House
In Italian with Projected English Titles

Saturday, May 11, 2024 at 7 p.m.
Monday, May 13, 2024 at 7 p.m.
Friday, May 17, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 2 p.m.
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 24, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 25, 2024 at 7 p.m.

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