Short summary - Turandot - Carlo Gozzi

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Turandot
Carlo Gozzi

The Astrakhan king Timur, his family and state suffered a terrible misfortune: the ferocious Sultan of Khorezm defeated the Astrakhan army and, breaking into the defenseless city, ordered to seize and execute Timur, his wife Elmaz and son Calaf. Those under the guise of commoners managed to escape to neighboring lands, but even there they were pursued by the vindictiveness of the winner. For a long time the royal family wandered through the expanses of Asia, enduring unbearable hardships; Prince Calaf, in order to feed his elderly parents, took on any menial work.

Calaf tells this sad story to his former tutor Barah, whom he meets by chance at the gates of Beijing. Barakh lives in Beijing under the name of the Persian Hassan. He is married to a kind widow named Skirina; his stepdaughter Zelima is one of Princess Turandot's slaves.

Prince Calaf arrived in Beijing with the intention of entering the service of Emperor Altoum. But first he wants to look at the festivities, preparations for which seem to be going on in the city.

However, this is not a celebration, but the execution of another failed candidate for the hand of Princess Turandot - the prince of Samarkand. The fact is that the vain, hard-hearted princess forced her father to issue such a decree: every prince can woo Turandot, but with the fact that at the meeting of the Divan of the Wise Men she will ask him three riddles; whoever guesses them will become her husband, and whoever doesn’t guess them will be beheaded. Since then, the heads of many glorious princes have adorned the walls of Beijing.

From the city gates, the heartbroken educator of the newly executed prince comes out. He throws on the ground and tramples on the ill-fated portrait of Turandot, just a glance at which was enough for his pupil to fall in love with a heartless proud woman without memory and thereby doom himself to death.

No matter how Barah Kalaf holds, he, confident in his own sanity, picks up a portrait. Alas! Where had his sanity and impassivity gone? Burning with love, Calaf rushes to the city towards happiness or death.

Emperor Altoum and his ministers Tartaglia and Pantalone mourn with all their hearts the cruelty of the princess, tearfully mourning the unfortunates who fell victim to her inhuman vanity and unearthly beauty. At the news of the appearance of a new seeker of the hand of Turandot, they make rich sacrifices to the great Berjingudzin, so that he would help the prince in love to stay alive.

Appearing before the emperor, Calaf does not name himself; he promises to reveal his name only if he solves the riddles of the princess. The good-natured Altoum and the ministers beg Calaf to be prudent and back down, but the prince stubbornly replies to all persuasions: "I long for death - or Turandot."

Nothing to do. The meeting of the Divan solemnly opens, at which Calaf will compete with the wisdom of the princess. She is accompanied by two slaves - Zelima and Adelma, once a Tatar princess. Both Turandot and Zelime Calaf immediately seem worthy of the previous applicants, for he surpasses all of them in the nobility of appearance, manners and speeches. Adelma recognizes Kalaf - but not as a prince, but as a servant in the palace of her father, the king of Khorasan; even then he won her heart, and now she decides to prevent his marriage to Turandot at all costs and to capture the love of the prince herself. Therefore, Adelma tries to harden the heart of the princess, reminding her of pride and glory, while Zelima, on the contrary, begs her to be more merciful.

To the delight of the emperor, ministers and Zelima, Calaf solves all three riddles of Turandot. However, the princess flatly refuses to go to the altar and demands that she be allowed to ask Calaf three new riddles the next day. Altoum opposes such a violation of the decree, implicitly executed when it was necessary to execute unsuccessful seekers, but the noble lover Calaf goes to meet Turandot: he himself invites her to guess what kind of father and son they are, who had everything and lost everything; if the princess guesses their names the next day, he is ready to die; if not, there will be a wedding.

Turandot is convinced that if she fails to guess the names of her father and son, she will be forever disgraced. Adelma warms up this conviction with insinuating speeches. With her sharp mind, the princess realized that by son, the mysterious prince meant himself. But how do you find out his name? She asks for advice from her slaves, and Zelima suggests a deliberately hopeless way - to turn to fortune-tellers and kabbalists. Adelma, on the other hand, reminds Turandot of the prince's words that there is one person in Beijing who knows him, and offers not to spare gold and diamonds, so that during the night, turning the whole city upside down, to find this person.

Zelima, in whose soul the feeling struggled with duty for a long time, finally reluctantly tells the mistress that, according to her mother Skirina, her stepfather, Hassan, is familiar with the prince. Overjoyed, Turandot immediately sends eunuchs, led by Truffaldino, to find and capture Hassan.

Together with Hassan-Barakh, the eunuchs seize his excessively talkative wife and some old man; they take all three to the seraglio. They are unaware that the unfortunate ragged old man is none other than the Astrakhan Tsar Timur, Calaf's father. Having buried his wife in a foreign land, he came to Beijing to look for his son or find death. Fortunately, Barach manages to whisper to the master that he under no circumstances should give his name. Calaf, meanwhile, is being escorted to special apartments guarded by the imperial pages and their chief Brighella.

Seral Turandot. Here the princess interrogates Barakh and Timur tied to the columns, threatening them with torture and cruel death if they do not name the mysterious prince and his father. But Calaf is dearer to both than their own lives. The only thing that Timur involuntarily lets out is that he is the king and father of the prince.

Turandot is already giving the eunuchs a sign to start massacring Barach, when suddenly Adelma appears in the seraglio with the news that Altoum is heading here; the prisoners are hurriedly taken to the dungeon of the seraglio. Adelma asks the princess not to torment them any more and promises, if she is allowed to act on her own, to find out the names of the prince and king during the night. Turandot completely trusts an approximate slave.

Meanwhile, a messenger from Astrakhan arrives at Altoum. In the secret message he brought, it is said that the Sultan of Khorezm has died and that the people of Astrakhan are calling Timur to take his rightful throne. According to the detailed signs described in the message, Altoum understands who this unknown prince is. Wishing to protect the honor of his daughter, who, he is convinced, would never guess the names he was looking for, and also save the life of Calaf, the emperor invites her to reveal the secret - but on the condition that, having flashed in the Divan of the Wise Men, she will then agree to become the wife of the prince. Pride, however, does not allow Turandot to accept his father's proposal; besides, she hopes that Adelma will fulfill her promise.

Brighella, guarding the chambers of Calaf, warns the prince that, they say, since the guards are forced people, and besides, everyone wants to save money for old age, ghosts may appear to him at night.

The first ghost is not long in coming. This is Skirina sent by Adelma. She informs Calaf about the death of her mother and that his father is now in Beijing. Skirina asks the prince to drop a few words to the old father, but he guesses the trick and refuses.

As soon as Skirina leaves empty-handed, Zelima finds herself in the prince's chambers. She tries a different approach: in fact, says the slave, Turandot does not hate the prince, but secretly loves him. Therefore, she asks him to reveal the names so that in the morning she will not be ashamed in front of the Divan, and promises to give him her hand in the same Divan. The insightful Calaf does not believe Zelima either. The third is Adelma herself. She opens herself to Calaf in her love and begs to run away together, because, according to her, the insidious Turandot still ordered to kill him at dawn, without waiting for the Divan to meet. Calaf resolutely refuses to run away, but, cast down in despair by the cruelty of his beloved, half-deliriously pronounces his and his father's name.

The night goes by with these conversations. The next morning Calaf is escorted to the Divan.

The sofa is already assembled, only Turandot and her retinue are missing. Altoum, confident that the princess never managed to find out the names of her father and son, sincerely rejoices and orders to build a temple right here, in the meeting room.

The altar has already been set up when Turandot finally appears in the Divan. The view of the princess and retinue is mourning. But, as it turns out, this is just a cruel revengeful joke. She knows the names and triumphantly proclaims them. The emperor and ministers are heartbroken; Calaf prepares for death.

But here, to everyone's joy and amazement, Turandot is transformed - love for Calaf, in which she did not dare to admit even to herself, takes precedence over cruelty, vanity and man-hatred. She publicly announces that Calaf will not only not be executed, but will also become her husband.

Only Adelma is not happy. In tears, she throws a bitter reproach to Turandot that, having previously taken away her freedom, now she takes away her love. But here Altoum enters: love is not in his power, but in order to console Adelma, he returns her freedom and the Khorasan kingdom of her father.

Finally, cruelty and injustice end. Everyone is happy. Turandot wholeheartedly asks heaven to forgive her stubborn aversion to men. The upcoming wedding promises to be very, very joyful.