Finishing the Master’s Work

One of my favorite opera stories is Turandot by Giacomo Puccini. This was probably his best opera and the story involves what happened after the composer’s death.

Puccini wrote the opera as he was dying of cancer in 1922. He worked day and night, despite his friends’ advice to rest and to save his energy. When his sickness worsened, Puccini said to his students, If I don’t finish Turandot, I want you to finish it. He died in 1924, leaving the work unfinished.

His students gathered all that was written of the opera, studied it in great detail, and then proceeded to write the remainder of the opera. The world premier was performed in Milan, Italy in 1926, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, Puccini’s favorite student. The opera went beautifully until the conductor came to the end of the part written by Puccini. He stopped the music, put down the baton, turned to the audience, and announced, Thus far the master wrote, until he died.

There was a long pause; no one moved. Then the great conductor picked up his baton, turned to the audience, and, with tears in his eyes, announced, But his disciples finished his work. The opera closed to thunderous applause, and to a permanent place in the annals of great musical compositions. This event was to the nurturing power of Puccini’s life and the diligence of his disciples.

And so it is after The Day of Resurrection. We are responsible to finish the Master’s work.