This season please consider helping us support the arts by:

  • presenting a free production of Puccini’s Turandot performed in English in East Tennessee’s public schools
  • supporting our $150,000/year Education/Outreach Program enabling students and adults to enjoy live performances

For each of the past six years, Knoxville Opera has presented an abbreviated opera production in English for students.  These productions include costumes/props and last approximately 45 minutes (including about 10 minutes of Q&A from the students).

2012 Gounod’s Romeo & Juliette
2013 Rossini’s Cinderella
2014 Donizetti’s Elixir of Love
2015 Bizet’s Carmen
2016 Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel
2017 Puccini’s La Bohème
2018 Puccini’s Turandot

For a complete list of ALL Education/Outreach performance dates (including the in-school productions listed below), click HERE.

Educators:  please click link below to download the reservation form for this year’s performances of Turandot!


Jennifer D'Agostino

In-School Performance Dates

2017-2018 in-school program performance dates and locations are listed below!

  • January 12, 2018 – 1:00 p.m. in-school Turandot at Gresham Middle School
  • January 13, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. in-school Turandot at Blount County Public Library
  • January 16, 2018 – 9:45 a.m. in-school Turandot at Powell Elementary School
  • January 16, 2018 – 1:30 p.m. in-school Turandot at New Hopewell Elementary School
  • January 17, 2018 – 10:00 a.m. in-school Turandot at Episcopal School of Knoxville
  • January 17, 2018 – 1:15 p.m. in-school Turandot at Blue Grass Elementary School
  • January 18, 2018 – 11:30 a.m. in-school Turandot at Lincoln Memorial University
  • January 18, 2018 – 1:30 p.m. in-school Turandot at LaFollette Elementary School
  • January 19, 2018 – 9:45 a.m. in-school Turandot at Brickey-McCloud Elementary School
  • January 19, 2018 – 1:00 p.m. in-school Turandot at Sterchi Elementary School
  • January 22, 2018 – 10:00 a.m. in-school Turandot at Ritta Elementary School
  • January 22, 2018 – 2:30 p.m. in-school Turandot at Bearden Middle School
  • January 23, 2018 – 10:00 a.m. in-school Turandot at East Ridge Middle School
  • January 23, 2018 – 1:00 p.m. in-school Turandot at Lincoln Heights Middle School
  • January 24, 2018 – 10:10 a.m. in-school Turandot at Farragut Middle School
  • January 24, 2018 – 2:10 p.m. in-school Turandot at Farragut Middle School
  • January 25, 2018 – 9:45 a.m. in-school Turandot at Spring Hill Elementary School
  • January 25, 2018 – 2:15 p.m. in-school Turandot at Northwest Middle School
  • January 26, 2018 – 10:00 a.m. in-school Turandot at Holston Middle School

Brittany Robinson (soprano)


Aaron Short (tenor)

Calaf, the unknown prince

Kristin Vogel (soprano)


This season’s in-school performances of Puccini’s Turandot feature the talents of Brittany Robinson, Aaron Short, and Kristin Vogel.

Music by Giacomo Puccini. Original libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni

Based on a Persian collection of stories called The Book of One Thousand and One Days by François Pétis de la Croix
First performance: La Scala, Milan, on Sunday, April 25, 1926


Scene 1
Coming soon


Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy in 1858. He came from a family of composers, and studied music both in his home town and at the music conservatory in Milan before embarking on an illustrious career. Although he composed only 12 operas and little other music, his place as one of the greatest composers of all time is secured by some of the most popular works in the 400-year history of musical theatre: Madame Butterfly, La Bohème, Tosca, and Turandot.

Turandot is a Persian word and name that means “the daughter of Turan”, Turan being a region of Central Asia, formerly part of the Persian Empire.  The story of Turandot was taken from a Persian collection of stories called The Book of One Thousand and One Days (1722 French translation Les Mille et un jours by François Pétis de la Croix – not to be confused with its sister work The Book of One Thousand and One Nights) – where the character of “Turandokht” as a cold princess was found.  The story of Turandokht is one of the best known from de la Croix’s translation. The plot respects the classical unities of time, space and action.

Puccini first began working on Turandot in March 1920 after meeting with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. In his impatience he began composition in January 1921 before Adami and Simoni had even produced the text for the libretto.  Baron Fassini Camossi, the former Italian diplomat to China, gave Puccini as a gift a music box which played a number of Chinese melodies.  Puccini used three of these in the opera, including the national anthem (heard during the appearance of the Emperor Altoum) and, most memorably, the folk melody “Mo Li Hua” (Jasmine Flower) which is first heard sung by the children’s chorus after the invocation to the moon in act 1, and becomes a sort of ‘leitmotif’ for the princess throughout the opera.  By March 1924 Puccini had completed the opera up to the final duet.  However, he was unsatisfied with the text of the final duet, and did not continue until 8 October, when he chose Adami’s fourth version of the duet text.  On 10 October he was diagnosed with throat cancer and on 24 November went to Brussels, Belgium, for treatment.  There he underwent a new and experimental radiation therapy treatment.  Puccini and his wife never knew how serious the cancer was, as the news was revealed only to his son.  Puccini, however, seems to have had some inkling of the possible seriousness of his condition since, before leaving for Brussels, he visited Toscanini and begged him, “Don’t let my Turandot die”.  He died of a heart attack on 29 November 1924, when it had seemed that the radium treatment was succeeding.

When Puccini died, the first two of the three acts were fully composed, including orchestration.  Puccini had composed and fully orchestrated act 3 up until Liù’s death and funeral cortege.  In the sense of finished music, this was the last music composed by Puccini.  He left behind 36 pages of sketches on 23 sheets for the end of Turandot. Some sketches were in the form of “piano-vocal” or “short score,” including vocal lines with “two to four staves of accompaniment with occasional notes on orchestration.”  These sketches supplied music for some, but not all, of the final portion of the libretto.

Puccini left instructions that Riccardo Zandonai should finish the opera.  Puccini’s son Tonio objected, and eventually Franco Alfano was chosen to flesh out the sketches.  Alfano provided a first version of the ending with a few passages of his own, and even a few sentences added to the libretto which was not considered complete even by Puccini himself.  After the severe criticisms by Ricordi and the conductor Arturo Toscanini, he was forced to write a second, strictly censored version that followed Puccini’s sketches more closely, to the point where he did not set some of Adami’s text to music because Puccini had not indicated how he wanted it to sound.  Ricordi’s real concern was not the quality of Alfano’s work, but that he wanted the end of Turandot to sound as if it had been written by Puccini, and Alfano’s editing had to be seamless.  Of this version, about three minutes were cut for performance by Toscanini, and it is this shortened version that is usually performed.

The premiere of Turandot was at La Scala, Milan, on Sunday, April 25, 1926, one year and five months after Puccini’s death.  Rosa Raisa held the title role.  Tenors Miguel Fleta and Franco Lo Giudice alternated in the role of Prince Calaf in the original production, although Fleta had the honor of singing the role for the opera’s opening night.  It was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.  In the middle of act 3, two measures after the words “Liù, poesia!“, the orchestra rested.  Toscanini stopped and laid down his baton.  He turned to the audience and announced: “Qui finisce l’opera, perché a questo punto il maestro è morto” (“Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died”).  The curtain was lowered slowly.

The most well-known song (aria) in the opera is called “Nessun dorma” (English: None shall sleep) which appears in Act 3.  It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot.  However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded.  In the aria, Calaf expresses his triumphant assurance that he will win the princess.  Although “Nessun dorma” has long been a staple of operatic recitals, Luciano Pavarotti popularized the piece beyond the opera world in the 1990s following his performance of it for the 1990 World Cup. Both Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo released singles of the aria that charted in the United Kingdom, and it appeared on the best selling classical album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert Since that time, many crossover artists have performed and recorded it.  The aria has been sung often in movies and on television.

Educators:  please click link below to download the reservation form for this year’s performances of Turandot!