This piece is the show-stopping finale of a tale of love, composed by Giacomo Puccini. It is the story of an unknown prince [Calaf] who falls in love with a princess [Turandot]. However any man who wishes to wed her must answer three riddles correctly, if not he is beheaded!
This is what I found on Wikipedia just to give context…
In the act before this aria (song), 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 is not known]“) 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!
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!
Calaf, now certain of victory, sings:
Dilegua, o notte!
Vanish, o night!
Fade, you stars!
Fade, you stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!
The Way I See It
This is a very heroic piece of music, in fact it was made (or did it make) Pavarroti famous at the opening ceremony of the Fifa Wold Cup in 1994.
“My secret is hidden within me, none will know my name.”
Is this not the perpetual murmur God? In describing Him, we end up describing the limitations of our own minds. In proclaiming His Name, we make but mere sounds. In letting go of all of this and that, as princess Turandad should, we find Him…
But Alas! None shall sleep until they, with their minds, books and words, can define Him.