New York City’s Metropolitan Opera Goes Woke: Adds Trigger Warning to Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot” for “Appropriation”

Giacomo Puccini’s operatic masterpiece “Turandot.”

Nothing is above the woke police, not even a Giacomo Puccini operatic masterpiece.

Turandot, which is set in ancient China, is about the Prince of Tartary, Calaf, who falls in love with a Chinese Princess, Turandot. In order to win the right to marry her, Calaf must answer three riddles.  If he fails, he will be executed. which, if failed, will lead to his execution.

Although Puccini died in 1924, leaving the opera unfinished at the time of his death in 1924, the music was posthumously completed by Franco Alfano and debuted in 1926.

Program notes on the New York Metropolitan Opera’s website, however, call “Turandot” a “problematic masterpiece” that co-opts, fetishizes, and appropriates Chinese culture.

With his death on November 29, 1924, Giacomo Puccini not only left his latest and most ambitious project unfinished but also left the world without a clear successor to carry on the grand tradition of Italian opera—a tradition that extended all the way back to the art form’s genesis in Renaissance Florence. But while Turandot can be considered “the last great Italian opera,” this designation fails to account for how much of the work isn’t Italian. From its setting to its plot and, most significantly, much of its music, Turandot draws on other cultures—as Puccini had done throughout much of his career—and represents a distinct evolution from the preceding three centuries of Italian opera. Yet it is in no way authentically Chinese either. A Western projection of the East, it is rife with contradictions, distortions, and racial stereotypes—and yet is also one of the most exhilarating and impressive works ever to take the operatic stage.


We must also consider the criticisms that Turandot—and Puccini’s appropriation, reconfiguration, and reharmonization of Chinese music—has received in recent years. As Ping-hui Liao, a professor of literary and critical studies at the University of California, San Diego, argues, despite the composer’s attempts at authenticity, “when the material is drawn from another culture, as in the case of Madama Butterfly or Turandot, it is integrated and ordered so that it becomes intelligible, controlled, and agreeable … the melodies are so well integrated that they lose their own autonomy and become part of a larger whole. In distinguishing between East and West, [Puccini] makes the former subservient to the latter.” Or, as Carner wryly suggests, while the Chinese characters don “national musical costume throughout … this costume may bear the trademark ‘Made in Italy.’” It shouldn’t be surprising then that many audience members of Chinese descent find it difficult to watch as their own heritage is co-opted, fetishized, or painted as savage, bloodthirsty, or backward.

The question then becomes how to appreciate Turandot—which features some of Puccini’s most ravishing melodies, scenes of truly remarkable musical and theatrical grandeur, and opportunities for the kind of show-stopping vocal displays that lie at the core of the art form’s appeal—in a way that both celebrates its achievements and acknowledges the problems inherent in it. As we raise our collective consciousness of its faults, it is essential that, rather than shying away from the less-savory aspects of the opera, with each subsequent revival, audiences recognize and grapple with their implications. For only through awareness and conversation, which must increasingly expand to include a wider array of voices and points of view, can the world truly understand Turandot as the thrilling yet problematic masterpiece that it is.

The New York Post reports:

“I’ve never ever heard of any such warning on any opera ever,” Atarah Hazzan, 88, a soprano who has performed at the Met and played Turnadot herself in the 1980s.

The Met has become very sensitive to many things,” Hazzan, who still works as a voice coach in Manhattan, added.

Norman Lebrecht, a critic and owner of the influential music blog Slipped Disc, dismissed the program note as “manufactured racial exasperation.”

“Trigger warnings exist to cover the heightened legal anxieties of theater administrators and the lately-inflated sensitivities of underpaid auxiliaries. They are bad for business and they should be scrapped,” he said.

“Turandot has fictional Chinese characters. If that bothers you, stay away,” he added.

Watch the finale from The New York Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Turandot in 2009.

The post New York City’s Metropolitan Opera Goes Woke: Adds Trigger Warning to Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot” for “Appropriation” appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

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