I have always loved this piece of music...long before I heard Pavorotti's rendition.
Nessun dorma (English: No one shall sleep) is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot, and is one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera. But did you know what it is all about and what the words mean? Do you know why it always moves people to tears?
It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot. However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles. If he fails, he will be beheaded.
In the act before this aria, Calaf has correctly answered the three riddles put to all of Princess Turandot's prospective suitors. Nevertheless, she recoils at the thought of marriage to him.
Calaf offers her another chance by challenging her to guess his name by dawn. (As he kneels before her, the Nessun dorma theme makes a first appearance, to his words, "Il mio nome non sai!") If she does so, she can execute him; but if she does not, she must marry him.
The cruel and emotionally cold princess then decrees that none of her subjects are to sleep that night until his name is discovered. If they fail, all will be killed.
As the final act opens, it is now night. Calaf is alone in the moonlit palace gardens. In the distance, he hears Turandot's heralds proclaiming her command. His aria begins with an echo of their cry and a reflection on Princess Turandot:
"Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza, guardi le stelle che tremano d'amore, e di speranza!"
("None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!")
"Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me; il nome mio nessun saprà! No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo dirò quando la luce splenderà!"
("But my secret is hidden within me; none will know my name! No, no! On your mouth I will say it when the light shines!")
"Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio che ti fa mia!"
("And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!")
Just before the climactic end of the aria, a chorus of women is heard singing in the distance:
"Il nome suo nessun saprà... E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!"
("No one will know his name... and we will have to, alas, die, die!")
Calaf, now certain of victory, sings:
"Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!"
("Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At daybreak I shall win! I shall win! I shall win!")
Paul Potts also shocked the world with his performance of this magical piece in the 2007 final of Britain's got talent. I love the look on everyone's face when he belted the first note. The way Simon Cowell stared on with his mouth agape is totally wonderful...that is what true talent does to people. It is totally mystifying.
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