A Profile of the Aria "Nessun Dorma"

With other cast members, Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935 - 2007) performs as Calaf in the final dress rehearsal prior to the season premiere of the Metropolitan Opera/Franco Zefferelli production of 'Turandot' by Giacomo Puccini at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, New York, May 9, 2000.
With other cast members, Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935 - 2007) performs as Calaf in the final dress rehearsal prior to the season premiere of the Metropolitan Opera/Franco Zefferelli production of 'Turandot' by Giacomo Puccini at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, New York, May 9, 2000. Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Composed:

1920-1924

Composer:

Giacomo Puccini

"Nessun Dorma" Translation

Learn the Italian lyrics and English translation of "Nessun Dorma".

Interesting Facts about "Nessun Dorma":

  • Two of the highest notes in the tenor range are sung in this fantastic aria - B4 followed by A4. To put that into perspective, middle C is C3.  Learn more about operatic voice types.
  • After Luciano Pavarotti performed "Nessun Dorma" at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Itally (his recording of the aria was also used as the BBC's theme song for its television coverage), his recording reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart - an event that has never happened for a classical music song. Learn why Pavarotti's performance of "Nessun Dorma" is so special.
  • In the actual score of "Nessun Dorma" Puccini did not sustain the high B4 note at the end of the piece.

History of "Nessun Dorma" and the opera, Turandot:

The story of Turandot is based on François Pétis de la Croix's 1722 French translation (Les Mille et un jours) of the Persian collection of works called The Book of One Thousand and One Days. Puccini began working on the opera with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni in 1920, but because Adami and Simoni were moving too slowly for Puccini's liking, he began composing Turandot's music in 1921, before receiving any sort of libretto. Interestingly, in the time Puccini was waiting to receive the libretto, Baron Fassini Camossi, the former Italian diplomat to China, gifted him a Chinese music box that contained numerous Chinese melodies and songs. In fact, a few of these songs can be heard in various scenes throughout the opera.

When 1924 had nearly come and gone, Puccini had all but finished the opera's final duet.

Puccini disliked the text of the duet and postponed composing it until he was able find a suitable replacement. Two days after he found a set of lyrics that pleased him, he was was diagnosed with throat cancer. Puccini decided to travel to Belgium for treatment and surgery in the last week of November 1924, without knowing the true extent serious nature of the cancer.

The doctors performed a radically new and experimental radiation therapy treatment on Puccini, which at first, seemed to be a promising solution to the cancer. Sadly, a few days after his first treatment, Puccini died from a heart attack on November 29, without ever finishing his opera, Turandot.

Despite his sudden death, Puccini managed to compose all of the opera's music up to the middle of the third and final act. Thankfully, he had left behind a set of instructions for completing his opera along with a request that Riccardo Zandonai should be the one to finish it. Puccini's son disagreed with his father's choice and sought help from Puccini's publisher, Tito Ricordi II.  After rejecting Vincenzo Tommasini and Pietro Mascagni, Franco Alfano was hired to complete the opera based upon the fact that Alfano's opera was similar in content and composition to Puccini's Turandot. Alfano's first submission to Ricordi was harshly criticized by both Ricordi and conductor, Arturo Toscanini, for the obvious reason that Alfano didn't stick to Puccini's notes and compositional style. He even made edits and additions of his own. He was forced back to the drawing board. Ricordi and Toscanini strictly demanded that Alfano's work be truly seamless with Puccini's - they didn't want the music to sound like it was composed by two different composers; it needed to sound as if Puccini had finished it himself.

Finally, Alfano submitted his second draft. Though Toscanini shortened it by about three minutes, they were pleased with Alfano's composition. It is this version that is performed in opera houses around the world today.

Great Singers of "Nessun Dorma":