Surely you have heard the song “Nessun dorma” at least once in your life, but perhaps you did not even know its name. She could be heard at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, as well as at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin (2006). Literally from Italian, the song “Nessun dorma” is translated as follows: “Let no one sleep.” In order to understand what meaning is hidden behind such an interesting name, one should turn to the history of the creation of the song.
“Nessun dorma” is the aria of the last act of the opera Turandot, which was first performed in 1926. The author of the opera is the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, who took the fairy tale of Carlo Gozzi as the basis of his work. Puccini worked on the opera for four years starting in 1920, but unfortunately he did not have time to finish the opera; after his death, this was done by the composer’s friend Franco Alfano.
The opera tells about the cruel cold Turandot, the princess of China, and the son of the Tatar king Timur – Kalaf. The girl does not want to get married because of her hatred of all men and therefore tests candidates for grooms, offering them to pass the test, the essence of which is as follows: the princess asks three riddles, if the applicant answers incorrectly, then he will be executed. During the execution of one of them, the young man Calaf, captivated by the beauty of Turandot, decides to become the husband of the princess at all costs, despite the persuasion of the emperor and a girl named Liu, who is the only faithful slave of Tsar Timur after his overthrow as a result of a coup d’état and unrequitedly in love with Calaf . However, the young man remains adamant and asks Turandot to make riddles.
The princess does not keep herself waiting long and comes up with the following puzzles:
This wonderful ghost flies under the cover of night. In the morning he disappears to be resurrected in the heart at sunset, the world begs him to stay, but he is adamant.
It burns like a flame, but not a flame, it will get colder in the last hour, you listen to it with trepidation, and the color is similar to the dawn.
The ice set your heart on fire, but it can’t melt that ice. So what is this ice?
As a result of the test, Calaf won: he, of course, not without difficulty, but managed to find answers to all three riddles. In the first case it was hope, in the second it was blood, and the answer to the third riddle was Turandot herself. Then the princess fell into despair: she did not want to marry a stranger. Then Calaf, seeing the torment of the girl, decided to give her a second chance and, in turn, ask her a riddle: if Turandot finds the answer before sunrise, then Calaf will be executed. And the riddle of the young man was simple: just to name his name.
Then the insidious princess decided to cheat and ordered all the people in Beijing not to close their eyes until dawn and find out the name of the stranger, otherwise, everyone would be executed. It is at this point in the opera that Calaf performs his famous aria “Nessun dorma” (“Let no one sleep”). The young man rejoices, in his heart he rejoices at the upcoming victory (“At dawn, I will win”), realizing that his secret is hidden from the people of Beijing, who see Calaf for the first time. The thing is that the young man, being the son of the former Tatar king, travels incognito, and therefore no one knows his name. In his song, Calaf mocks the whole world, urging people not to sleep that night (“Let no one sleep! You too, O Princess”). Ministers and even townspeople come to the young man, asking him to give his name, but Calaf does not intend to do this. The prince in the song voices his desire, as if predicting the future (“In your mouth I will pronounce it when the dawn shines! And my kiss will dispel the silence”). And so it happens: at sunrise, Calaf kisses Turandot and reveals his name to her, and then the icy heart of the princess thaws – she falls in love with the prince.
“Nessun dorma” is not just a song about the desires of a young man in love, but the embodiment of true love, capable of many accomplishments. This song is a monologue of a man whose heart yearns for love and therefore burns with fire. “Nessun dorma” is also the belief that all good things must certainly come true, that it is impossible to live in the world without love.
Surprising is the fact that the aria “Nessun dorma” is one of the most difficult male tenor works, not many opera singers can afford to perform this aria; and currently the most famous performer of this song is Luciano Pavarotti. However, the complexity of this aria does not detract from its value, but, on the contrary, adds to it a peculiar charm and a touch of inimitability, because whoever heard this song at least once will not be able to forget it.