"Nessun dorma" (English: "None shall sleep") is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's operaTurandot, and is 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. 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. (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 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!"
(English translation: "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!")
("Vanish, o night! Fade, you stars! Fade, you stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win! ")
In performance, 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. In the original score, the B is written as an eighth note while the A is a whole note. Both are high notes in the tenor range. The only recording to follow Puccini's score exactly was the very first, sung by Gina Cigna and Francesco Merli, conducted by Franco Ghione.
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's), but in a more subdued orchestration.
Nessun dorma sung by some of the most famous interpreters of Calaf appear on the following compilation recordings. (For full-length recordings of the opera, see Turandot discography.)
Nessun Dorma is also the title of a short film by Ken Russell included in the 1987 film Aria. (Aria consists of ten segments by a variety of directors; each one features the director's visual accompaniment to arias and scenes from operas. The films have minimal or no dialogue, with most of the spoken content coming from the words of the aria itself.)
"Nessun dorma" is sung by Pavarotti himself as part of his fictional role in Yes, Giorgio.
^Puccini, Giacomo; Adami, G., & Simoni, R. (1978). "Act III, Scene I". Turandot. Opera Vocal Score Series (in English, Italian). Milano, Italy: Ricordi. p. 291. OCLC84595094. "None shall sleep tonight!"