Tune of the Day: Nessun dorma
The famous tenor aria “Nessun dorma” (literally, “None shall sleep”) appears in the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot. It is sung by Calaf, “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. Nonetheless, she recoils at the thought of marriage to him. Calaf offers her another chance by challenging her to guess his name by dawn. 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 shall 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:
None shall sleep! None shall sleep!
Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom,
watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!
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!
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!
Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!
“Nessun dorma” achieved pop status after Luciano Pavarotti's recording of it was used as the theme song of BBC television's coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. It subsequently reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart, the highest placing ever by a classical recording.