Turandot, an Asian princess, refused to marry unless a princely suitor could answer three riddles that she gave him. If he failed he was executed – a high price to pay for love! Many had died but Calaf, an unknown prince, took the riddle test and to Turandot’s displeasure answered correctly. However, he declined to marry her when she told him how distasteful it would be for her. Instead he gave her a riddle which, if she guessed the answer before morning, would cancel her obligation to marry him. She had to find out his real name.
She cruelly sent out servants to find the answer and had the faithful slave girl, Lui, tortured, but Lui killed herself rather than reveal her master’s name. All were horrified by this death and Calaf told the unrepentant Turandot his name giving her the chance to answer the riddle correctly the next day. But the cagey Calaf also kissed her in the moonlight and so broke down her implacable resistance. The next day, Turandot revealed that the secret name was “love” and so the two were married to the joy of the kingdom which was heartily sick of the slaughter of so many young princes.
Coincidentally we played this opera on “The Day of the Girl”, an annual celebration of girl-power. Fortunately, the girls of today don’t go to such extremes to reject a suitor, but still seem very susceptible to love.