David Valdés

"Xilofono basso" in "Turandot" (G. Puccini) - (and II?).

In my PREVIOUS ARTICLE I showed you which instrument wanted Puccini as the “xilofono basso”, where he found his inspiration, who provided him with he original instrument and how he ordered a copy to be made for “Turandot”.

ranat thum

Just imagine that we could find that original instrument. Thinking about it I get goose bumps!! Finding that ranat thum, studying it, to know that Puccini saw it and played it that that it was his model for his his final opera would be a dream come true. This is the kind of weirdo stuff that I like!


Exactly that was my intention when I collected all the pieces of the jig-saw puzzle: finding the ranat thum that Galileo Chini had brought from Siam. The Chini Collection is kept since 1948 at the Etnographic Museum of the University of Firenze (exhibited since 1950-2, sources disagree). I payed a visit to their website and, indeed, there is a collection of Oriental objects  that Chini donated at near the end of his life.


With my heart beating fast, I wrote several emails to various people in the museum. Few days later I got a response from Francesca Bigoni, general curator of the institution, who readdressed me to her colleague Monica Zavattaro, in charge of the Chini Collection. Already in touch with the latter, I asked her for a list of the musical instruments in the collection. She sent me a pdf document containing photographs and full descriptions of what our friend brought back from Siam. The instruments in the possesion of the museum are the following:



Sadly, not a trace of the ranat thum that Chini brought from Siam and inspired Puccini. I cannot deny that I felt terribly dissapointed, as I was very excited thinking that I was touching the original instrument with my fingertips, specially when everything was running so smoothly (my research, the communication with the museum…).


A disappointment? Of course yes, but I still keep a couple of bullets in the chamber. Once I shoot those bullets, two things may have happened; one, that I have found the original “xilofono basso”; two, that I haven´t. If I find it, I will ask for photos so we can study it; if not, we can always get to conclusions and formulate hypotheses about where this unique instrument is (if it is somewhere…).


Give me some time and I will get back to you. Who knows, maybe “all´alba vincerò”.



…et in Arcadia ego.

© David Valdés