Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pavarotti, Nessun Dorma and the Meaning of Wow

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." ~John Keats

I was in a conversation recently with some people talking about the question, "When was the last time you cried?" and at the moment I couldn't remember. It's harder for men, I think, and though the release of a good bawl feels good, it doesn't seem like something you make happen at will.

And you know how it is when you can't remember where you put something or you can't remember a name, so it was that I left that conversation trying to remember... when did I cry last, a really good cry?

A few days passed and it came to me. A number of years ago I was listening to a CD in my car, to this song by Pavarotti, Nessun Dorma. There is something powerfully emotional about beauty.

That Pavarotti was a sensation is an understatement. One only needs to recite the accollades of his career, spanning from 1961 to two years ago this month. Perhaps his Guinness Book of World Records for Most Curtain Calls can be seen as telling. 165!

Of the song itself, the title means "None Shall Sleep." It is an aria from the final act of Puccini's opera Turandot. In the opera, Turandot is a beautiful but cold hearted princess. Her beauty is such many a man has desired her, but to win her heart they must answer three questions or be beheaded. It's a high risk game to fall in love with a beautiful cold-heart maiden.

The one who sings it is Calaf, "the unknown prince." Calaf has answered the questions but she recoils at the thought of marrying him. Calaf' puts a riddle to her... she has to guess his name by dawn. If she succeeds, she may behead him. If she fails, she must marry him.

Against this backdrop we hear the theme music rise... and Pavarotti sings.

Nessun dorma

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza
guardi le stelle che tremano
d`amore e di speranza!

Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun sapr"!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò,
quando la luce splender"!
Ed il mio bacio scioglier"
il silenzio che ti fa mia!

Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle! All`alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

Here is a YouTube video of Pavarotti performing this fabulous piece. I found it especially amusing that it has Spanish subtitles. The English translation follows.

Nessun dorma

No man will sleep! No man will sleep!
You too, oh Princess,
in your virginal room,
watch the stairs
trembling with love and hope!

But my secret lies hidden within me,
no-one shall discover my name!
Oh no, I will reveal it only on your lips
when daylight shines forth!
And my kiss shall break
the silence that makes you mine!

Depart, oh night! Set, you stars!
Set, you stars! At dawn I shall win!
I shall win! I shall win!


Christella D. Moody said...

Your post sent me directly to itunes. Thanks for reminding me how beautiful that song is. Pavorotti will be missed.

The emotional impact of music cannot be underestimated. The song that makes me cry this week, (it changes constantly) is the soundtrack from Glory, the movie about an African American unit in the Civil War. Sometimes I just play the closing credits for the final song featuring the Harlem Boys' Choir.

Ed Newman said...

I did see the film Glory about ten years ago... Anything with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman is going to be good. I will look for it and re-visit the closing credits (after watching the film again, of course.) There are some other films I have done that with, actually. In point of fact, the Pavarotti piece I was playing was from a CD of film music that I had borrowed from the library. Another wonderful piece on that CD was the Adagio opus 11 by Barber that was used as the recurring theme in Platoon, and also is used in The Elephant Man to great effect.

Yes, Pavarotti will be missed.

Unknown said...

Pavarotti was definitely the master of the high C's. I can listen to him over and over all day long and never tire of it. There was something magical about this man and his voice.


Linda Reel said...

This beautiful piece was playing in my car today (sung by Jackie Evanko) and it moved me to tears as I was driving down a mountain and into a beautiful valley witha a lake. It was so majestic and awe inspiring; it made me want to fly right out into the sky over the valley. I thought I died and went to heaven, and then with the powerful music of "Nessum Dorma" playing, I was overcome with emotion. IT prompted me to learn more about the music which brought me to this website. Thank You for sharing. I hope now that someday I will get to see Puccini's opera.

Ed Newman said...

Thank you, Linda. Glad you found this page... I'm sure many have been unexpectedly overcome with emotion while listening to this, from its sheer beauty cascading through deep spaces in our souls.

pnhanly said...

Obviously the most beautiful aria produced by man. I listen to it over and over. I have the CD in my car. I have Ashley words in my phone. I like to think I have a voice; but it does not matter. When the song was playing and no one else is around, I sing it as loud as Luciano.

Ed Newman said...

Yes, yes, and yes.

Thanks for the visit and the comment.

Unknown said...

Beautyful blog post, I'm 30 now, but just very recently knew about the beauty of this song and the whole Pavarotti work.

Nessun Dorma brings me to tears every time I listen (and am alone..).