It would have been a difficult ending under the best of circumstances. Composing what would be his last opera, Giacomo Puccini was struggling to humanize Turandot, daughter of the Emperor and a woman of mesmerizing beauty. Early in the opera, she had cruelly disposed of a series of want-to-be suitors, beheading some and torturing others, with the casual cruelty of a sociopath. In the final act of the opera, Puccini was hoping to compose a compelling, yet plausible, aria that would thaw her icy cold heart without asking the audience to forget, or even forgive, her sadistic past.
Puccini’s struggle was made all the more difficult because he was suffering from persistent pain in his throat.