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Nessun dorma

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"Nessun dorma" (Italian: [nesˌsun ˈdɔrma]; English: "Let no one sleep")[1] is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot (text by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni) and one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera. 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. Any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded. In the aria, Calaf expresses his triumphant assurance that he will win the princess.

Although "Nessun dorma" had long been a staple of operatic recitals, Luciano Pavarotti popularised the piece beyond the opera world in the 1990s following his performance of it for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, which captivated a global audience.[2] Both Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo released singles of the aria, with Pavarotti's reaching number 2 in the UK,[3][4] and it appeared on the best-selling classical album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert.[5] The Three Tenors, which includes José Carreras, performed the aria at three subsequent FIFA World Cup Finals, in 1994 in Los Angeles, 1998 in Paris, and 2002 in Yokohama.[2] Since 1990, many crossover artists have performed and recorded it. The aria has been sung often in films and on television.

Context and analysis


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. As he kneels before her, the "Nessun dorma" theme makes a first appearance, to his words, "Il mio nome non sai!" (My name you do not know!). She can execute him if she correctly guesses his name; 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:

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!
Not even you, oh Princess,
in your cold bedroom,
watching 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;
no one 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!
Fade, you stars!
Fade, you stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!

In typical performance style, the final "Vincerò!" features a sustained B4, followed by the final note, an A4 sustained even longer—although Puccini's score did not explicitly specify that either note be sustained.[6] In the original score, the B is written as a sixteenth note while the A is written as a whole note. Both are high notes in the tenor range.

In Alfano's completion of act 3, the "Nessun dorma" theme makes a final triumphal appearance at the end of the opera. The theme also makes a concluding reappearance in Luciano Berio's later completion (this having been an expressed intention of Puccini), but in a more subdued orchestration.



"Nessun dorma", sung by some of the most famous interpreters of Calaf, appears on the following compilation recordings (for full-length recordings of the opera, see Turandot discography):

Cultural references and adaptations


Luciano Pavarotti


"Nessun dorma" achieved pop status after Luciano Pavarotti's 1972 recording of it was used as the theme song of BBC television's coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.[7] It subsequently reached no. 2 on the UK Singles Chart.[8] Although Pavarotti rarely sang the role of Calaf on stage, "Nessun dorma" became his signature aria and a sporting anthem in its own right, especially for football.[7][8] Pavarotti notably sang the aria during the first Three Tenors concert on the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final in Rome. For an encore, he performed the aria again, taking turns with José Carreras and Plácido Domingo. The image of three tenors in full formal dress singing in a World Cup concert captivated the global audience.[2] The album of the concert achieved triple platinum record status in the United States alone[9] and went on to outsell all other classical recordings worldwide.[5] The number became a regular feature of subsequent Three Tenors concerts, and they performed it at three subsequent FIFA World Cup Finals, in 1994 in Los Angeles, 1998 in Paris, and 2002 in Yokohama.[2]

Pavarotti gave a rendition of "Nessun dorma" at his final performance, the finale of the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, although it was later revealed that he had lip-synched the specially pre-recorded performance (at the time of his Winter Olympics appearance, Pavarotti was physically incapable of performing, as he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, to which he succumbed the following year).[10] His Decca recording of the aria was played at his funeral during the flypast by the Italian Air Force.[11] In 2013, the track was certified gold by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.[12]

Crossover and adapted versions


"Nessun dorma" (often in adapted versions of the score) has been performed by many pop and crossover singers and instrumentalists.

In other media


"Nessun dorma" has been used in many films,[24] often appearing at a central moment in the film—sometimes with the aria's moment of musical resolution aligned with the film's narrative climax, giving symbolic meaning to the aria's rich emotional impact.

Films in which the aria plays a significant role in the soundtrack include The Killing Fields,[25] New York Stories,[26] The Sea Inside,[27] The Sum of All Fears,[28] The Mirror Has Two Faces,[29] Bend It Like Beckham,[24] Chasing Liberty,[30] No Reservations,[31][better source needed] Goon,[32] The Upside,[33] and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation[34] (with the scene set within a performance of Turandot itself). It was also used in a climactic scene of the first season of Daredevil.[35] It was sung by Pavarotti himself as part of his fictional role in the film Yes, Giorgio.[36] "Nessun dorma" is also the title of a short film by Ken Russell included in the 1987 film Aria.[37]

"Nessun dorma" has also accompanied climactic scenes in various television shows. For example, the piece is played at the conclusion of episode 4 of the Korean drama Vincenzo.[38] The aria is seemingly being broadcast over the radio, and the episode ends dramatically with the titular character speaking the final words of the song as Pavarotti sings them, “Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!” Similarly, the aria was featured in the final episode of the first season of the 2015 Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series Daredevil.

"Nessun dorma" is also the title of a football podcast (hosted by The Guardian journalist Lee Calvert and featuring sports writers past and present) that celebrates 1980s and 1990s football.[39]


  1. ^ Puccini, Giacomo; Giuseppe Adami; Renato Simoni (1978). "Act III, Scene I". Turandot. Opera Vocal Score Series (in English and Italian). Milano, Italy: Ricordi. p. 291. OCLC 84595094. None shall sleep tonight!
  2. ^ a b c d The Music Industry Handbook. Routledge. 2016. p. 219.
  3. ^ "Official Charts (UK) – Luciano Pavarotti". Official Charts.
  4. ^ "Official Charts (UK) – Placido Domingo". Official Charts.
  5. ^ a b Classical Music Magazine, vol. 17, p. 39 (1994).[full citation needed] "And then there's the Three Tenors phenomenon: The London recording from the 1990 concert became the biggest-selling classical album of all time, having now topped 10-million units throughout the world..."
  6. ^ Johnson, Frank (23 July 1990). "Puccini scores – analysis of aria 'Nessun dorma'". National Review. Archived from the original on 6 November 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2024.
  7. ^ a b "A riot of colour, emotion and memories: the World Cup stands alone in the field of sport". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Nessun Dorma put football back on map", The Telegraph, September 7, 2007 (accessed 24 September 2015)
  9. ^ "American certifications – "Three Tenors, The"". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Pavarotti, Revered Even When Lip-Synching", The New York Times, April 7, 2008 (accessed 7 April 2008)
  11. ^ BBC News coverage of Pavarotti's final performance (accessed 8 October 2007); BBC News coverage of Pavarotti's funeral (accessed 8 October 2007)
  12. ^ "Italian single certifications" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  13. ^ Daly. Mike (2 March 1989). "Two of the Best – In One Week". The Age. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  14. ^ The Recording Academy (Grammy.com). 40th Annual Grammy Awards. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  15. ^ Huizenga, Tom (28 January 2010). "Grammy's Most Memorable Performances". National Public Radio. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  16. ^ Dalley, Jan (6 November 2015). "The Life of a Song: 'Nessun Dorma'". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  17. ^ James Manheim. Chris Botti: Italia at AllMusic
  18. ^ "Chris Botti". JazzMonthly.com. Archived from the original on 5 January 2011.
  19. ^ Carroll, Jim (10 September 2010). "On the record". The Irish Times. 5 November 2014.
  20. ^ The Guardian (22 October 2009). "Antony Hegarty: Will sing for coffee". Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  21. ^ Perusse, Bernard, "Beck in a reflective mood" Archived 18 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Ottawa Citizen, 17 April 2020
  22. ^ R. Scott Lloyd (25 July 2013). "Days of '47: Pioneer Day Concert". Church News. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  23. ^ Devan Cole (27 July 2021). "CNN to air 'WE LOVE NYC: The Homecoming Concert' celebrating city's comeback from Covid-19". CNN. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  24. ^ a b Blank, Christopher (13 October 2007). "High Note", Commercial Appeal
  25. ^ Stephen Holden, "Eloquent Movies With Eloquent Soundtracks", The New York Times, January 30, 1994
  26. ^ LoBrutto, Vincent (2008). Martin Scorsese: A Biography, p. 293.Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98705-1
  27. ^ Nelson Pressley, 'The Sea Inside': A Quest for Death, The Washington Post, December 17, 2004; Page C05
  28. ^ Gloria Goodale, Sum signals change since 9/11, The Christian Science Monitor, May 31, 2002
  29. ^ Jay Carr, Barbra Streisand looks into her 'Mirror' and discovers she's still a funny girl, The Boston Globe, November 10, 1996.
  30. ^ Hornblow, Deborah (8 January 2004). "A President's Daughter Given To Excess". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  31. ^ "No Reservations – Soundtracks". IMDb. 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  32. ^ "Goon – Review". flickeringmyth. 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  33. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (10 January 2019). "The Upside Is Just Too Retrograde to Be Funny". TIME. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  34. ^ MacNab, Geoffrey (30 July 2015). "Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, movie review: Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  35. ^ "Every Generation Gets the 'Daredevil' It Deserves, PopMatters". PopMatters. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  36. ^ Maslin, Janet (24 September 1982). "Pavarotti in 'Giorgio'". The New York Times
  37. ^ Richard Corliss, Opera for The Inoperative, Time, May 2, 1988.
  38. ^ "Vincenzo Soundtrack (Season 1, Episode 4)". tunefind. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  39. ^ "Nessun Dorma: the podcast that celebrates 1980s and 1990s football". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2018.