While in 1920 Giacomo Puccini began recasting Gozzi’s fairy-tale-based play Turandot into his final opera that, despite its excesses, was still written in the spirit of good old Romanticism, another opera based on a scenario written by Gozzi – The Love for Three Oranges – was awaiting its premiere. Sergey Prokofiev conceived the piece as sheer parody, traducing everything “heart-felt” and “seriously meant”.
Prokofiev wrote The Love for Three Oranges in the wake of his emigrating from the Bolshevik-ruled Russia to the USA as a sui generis highly cosmopolitan work: based on an Italian play, in a Russian adaptation, set to a French libretto, for an American audience.
Gozzi created his original, predominantly prosaic play L'amore delle tre melarance as a crazy story in the commedia dell’arte style, with the aim to ridicule his competitors Goldoni and Chiari.
Its Dada vein and the playful story so impressed the Russian avant-garde artist Vsevolod Meyerhold that he named after Gozzi’s comedy his own magazine, in whose very first issue he published the play’s modern adaptation.
Prokofiev happened to have the text in the US, and since an opera set to a Russian text was out of the question, he opted for a French libretto, which he based on Meyerhold’s translation.
No less intricate and quaint than the genesis of Prokofiev’s opera is the opera’s story, depicting as it does a hypochondriac, orange-loving prince.