Confused about how to pronounce ‘Turandot’? Don’t worry, we’re right there with you! Everyone from our production crew to the General Director has gone through at least three different pronunciations of Turandot since we started working on this opera. Our box office staff receives countless variations on a daily basis, with many patrons waiting for them to say the name first, referring to it simply as “the first show” or “the Puccini opera” until then.
So what is the right way to say Turandot? Truthfully, there is no consensus. The originating conductor had his own way of saying it, which Puccini’s family members have disagreed with, and since then there have been intense face-offs among scholars and opera lovers! The correct pronunciation of Turandot has been as mysterious and unforgiving as the princess herself. But let us go over a few options:
Too-rahn-dough — This eliminates the final hard ‘t’ sound, and seems to make sense as a more smooth, effortless delivery of the name.
Too-rahn-dote — “Why doesn’t Turandot dote on her suitor Calaf?” This pronunciation is actually the most popular among our operagoers, and works well because of it allows a harder ‘t’ at the end, but still manages to sound delicate and nuanced.
Too-rahn-dott — This version starts and ends with strong ‘t’s making it the most cut-and-dry. It is also a fairly North Americanized pronunciation and fits in well with our dialect. Within the Edmonton Opera cast, crew, and administrative staff, we seem to have uniformly arrived at this pronunciation.
The above options are, of course, not the only ones. There are several other variations that soften the initial ‘t’ and honour the etymology of this name, a combination of the Persian word for daughter (dokht) and Turan (region of Central Asia). In the opera itself, the name is usually sung with a gentler Italian ‘t’ at the top and no ‘t’ sound at the end.
The trick, now that we have sampled a few pronunciations here, is to pick one and say it with absolute resolve, as though it has never been pronounced any other way!
Hopefully this post has helped relieve some of your anxiety before coming to see Turandot. Now you can sit back, enjoy the show, and tell the whole world about your experience!
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Photo by Reed Hummell, Nashville Opera's Turandot