Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre

Torture and death mean nothing. Freedom means everything. Can the princess win her heart’s desire?

When Pavarotti sang out the top B in Puccini’s ‘Nessun dorma’ across a huge crowd at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, the world collectively held its breath. A generation of football fans were learning what opera was all about — music that can transport you to another world, another place, a place where emotion wells up inside you at the sound of a single note.

“Vincerò”, the tenor cries — “I will win! I will WIN!”

Truthfully, few of the millions of people who watched that broadcast had an inkling of what the power of that music can be. Few had seen Turandot — Puccini’s opera about a brutal princess and an impossibly brave suitor, who will make any sacrifice to win her love.

Turandot is a fantasy opera of poetry and myth, set in an exotic world where fear and love go hand in hand and death is always just around the corner. ‘Nessun dorma’ is just one of its magnificent moments.

Renowned conductor Christian Badea returns to Australia to conduct a thrilling cast: Lise Lindstrom as the ice princess, Walter Fraccaro as the man determined to win her heart and Karah Son as his devoted servant, Liù.

Dine before the opera at Arts Centre Melbourne

A couple dines at Arts Centre Melbourne before the operaLet us make it easy for you with pre-performance dining at Café Vic at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a themed set menu, including matched wine. View the menu.

Simply add the dining option to your cart after selecting tickets. If you already have tickets, sign in to your account to add dinner to your existing booking or call 03 9685 3700.

Subscribe to the opera in 2019 and come with us on an inspiring journey...

You can chart a course through love and passion and despair (this is opera, after all), or walk on the wild side with the devil himself. You can laugh and revel in extraordinary talent or gasp your way through horror stories. Our 2019 Melbourne season leaves no corner unexplored. Choose three or more productions to unlock a subscriber discount, along with exclusive benefits throughout the year.

Conductor Christian Badea
Director Graeme Murphy
Revival Director Kim Walker
Set & Costume Designer Kristian Fredrikson
Choreographer Graeme Murphy
Assistant Choreographer Tim Farrar
Lighting Designer John Drummond Montgomery
Assistant Director Miranda Summers
Turandot Lise Lindstrom
Calaf Walter Fraccaro
Liù Karah Son
Timur Richard Anderson
Ping Christopher Hillier
Pang Virgilio Marino
Pong John Longmuir
Emperor Graeme Macfarlane
Mandarin Andrew Moran
Handmaiden 1 Leah Thomas
Handmaiden 2 Katherine Wiles
Prince of Persia Dean Bassett

Opera Australia Chorus

Opera Australia Children's Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

Running time: approximately 2 hours & 50 minutes, including two intervals.

Production Partner

APT logo

The StoryHide

Turandot is a beautiful and powerful princess, who challenges her many suitors to answer three riddles on pain of death. No one has ever succeeded.

Calaf is a brave prince from a foreign land, who falls instantly in love with the princess.

Despite the wishes of his exiled father and the pleas of a slave-girl who loves him, he rings the gong and declares his love for the princess.

She presents her riddles, and in triumph, the unknown prince answers. Turandot despairs and the prince takes pity — offering the ice-cold princess a riddle of his own. But Calaf’s riddle risks more than his own life — everyone else’s hangs in the balance.

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Turandot is a version of the ancient fairy tale of the cruel Eastern Princess who slays those who love her.

Act I

Before the Imperial Palace in Peking

At sunset a Mandarin appears before the crowd and announces that any prince seeking to marry the Princess Turandot must first answer three riddles. If he fails, he must die. The latest suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon's rising. The bloodthirsty crowd surges forward and an old blind man is knocked to the ground.

In response to his slave's cries for help, a young man steps forward. The old man is Timur, the banished King of Tartary, who is overjoyed to learn that the young man is his long lost son, Calaf. Timur tells his son that only Liù, his slave, has remained faithful to him in his exile. Calaf asks why she has risked so much; she replies it is because once long ago he, Calaf, smiled at her.

As the sky darkens, the mob again cries for blood but greets the moon with sudden, fearful silence. They are further moved when the Prince of Persia passes by and calls upon the princess to spare him. Calaf curses the beauty who sends noble and innocent lovers to their deaths. Turandot appears and, with a contemptuous gesture, bids the execution to proceed.

As the death cry is heard in the distance, Calaf, transfixed by the beauty of the unattainable princess, strides to the gong that announces a new suitor. Suddenly Turandot's three ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, materialise to discourage him. Timur and the tearful Liù also beg him to reconsider, but as their pleas intensify, he strikes the fatal gong and calls Turandot's name.

Act II

The Ministers' Pavilion

Ping, Pang and Pong lament Turandot's bloody reign, hoping that love will conquer her icy heart and peace will return. They think longingly of their distant country homes, but the noise of the populace gathering to hear Turandot question the new challenger brings them back to reality.

Before the Imperial Palace

The people, eager for another execution, have gathered in the square. The aged Emperor, seated on a high throne, vainly asks Calaf to reconsider. Turandot appears and describes how her beautiful ancestor, Princess Lou Ling, was carried off and ravished by a conquering prince; in revenge, she has turned against all men and determined that none shall ever possess her.

Facing Calaf, she poses her first question: What is born each night and dies each dawn? "Hope" answers Calaf correctly. Unnerved, Turandot continues: What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire? "Blood" replies Calaf after a moment's pause. Visibly shaken, Turandot delivers her third riddle: What is like ice but burns? A tense silence prevails until Calaf triumphantly cries, "Turandot!"

While the crowd voices thanks, the princess begs her father not to give her to the stranger, but to no avail. Calaf, hoping to win her love, generously offers Turandot a challenge of his own: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life. Turandot accepts.


In the Palace gardens

Calaf hears a proclamation: on pain of death, no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger's name. He muses on his impending joy. Ping, Pang and Pong try unsuccessfully to bribe him to leave the city. As the mob threatens him to learn his name, soldiers drag in Liù and Timur. Horrified, Calaf tries to convince the mob that neither knows his secret. When Turandot appears, commanding the dazed Timur to speak, Liù cries out that she alone knows the stranger's identity but will never reveal it. She is tortured, but remains silent. Impressed by such endurance, Turandot asks Liù's secret: "Love" replies the girl. The princess signals the soldiers to intensify the torture, but Liù snatches a dagger and kills herself. The crowd, fearful of her dead spirit, forms a funeral procession.

Turandot remains alone to confront Calaf, who tears the covering from her face and boldly kisses her. Knowing emotion for the first time, Turandot weeps. Now sure of his victory, Calaf reveals his identity.

As the people hail the Emperor, Turandot triumphantly approaches his throne, announcing the stranger's name: it is Love. As Calaf rushes to embrace her, the court hails the power of love and life.

Turandot star Lise Lindstrom explains why opera doesn't need to make sense

An acclaimed soprano finds the humanity in a famously bloodthirsty heroine.

Allow us to make your dinner reservation before evening performances: 6pm at Café Vic at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a themed three-course set menu for just $85, including matched wine.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets.

Deep-fried squid with aromatic herbs and smoked ricotta, baked eggplant
               with thyme, Japanese aioli.

Deep-fried squid with aromatic herbs and smoked ricotta, baked eggplant with thyme, Japanese aioli.
+ Impossible Princess cocktail


Five spice roasted pork belly, chilli garlic and choy sum, orange and ginger
               sauce, crispy shallots.

Five spice roasted pork belly, chilli garlic and choy sum, orange and ginger sauce, crispy shallots.
+ a glass of Pinot Noir. 


Chocolate delice, caramelized milk, Marsala and mascarpone mousse, coffee
               and chocolate soil.

Chocolate delice, caramelised milk, Marsala and mascarpone mousse, coffee and chocolate soil.
tea or filtered coffee. 


Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.

Published menu is subject to change without notice. Vegetarian and vegan options are available upon request. This menu is only available before performances of Turandot.
Buy TicketsBuy Tickets
View Cart
0 Items