Why *Turandot* Doesn’t Turan-Work

Sorry to burst your bubble, O lovers of the opera. I especially apologize to die-hard fans of Signore Giacomo Puccini. However timeless the composition is, Turandot is not the paragon of eternal love that people think it is. Rather, Puccini’s extravagant production is a hotbed of stereotypes, cultural backlash, and misogyny. Puccini has not set foot in China, yet he bravely sought to capture the intriguing world of court life in Beijing. Alas, he failed. Turandot’s character comes off as nothing short of a callous, calculating ice queen, who is dogged in her quest to destroy all men. The men within the story are no saints, either: Except for the hapless victims, all the other men are either witless comic relief (the cringeworthy Ping, Pang, and Pong) or manipulative jerks (the Caliph, of course!).  The one innocent, good-natured woman (Liu) becomes the evil Turandot’s scapegoat and sacrificial lamb, all at once.  Why would Puccini have Liu so vehemently vouch for the Caliph and protect his identity, without regard for her own life? I cannot help but shudder with revulsion and grief at the thought that Turandot used to be among my favorite operas. By the way, Signore Puccini: Liu is a surname; Lu is the given name but a masculine one. Where is the ending’s logic? Turandot swore off all men, and yet she somehow caves in to the Caliph? What? What?!? Color me flummoxed. Nessun dorma, indeed.