Immortalised by football fans the world over and popularised by Luciano Pavarotti, one of the most famous arias in opera is of course Nessun dorma (Let no one sleep). It comes from Giacomo Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, which first premiered at Teatro La Scala in Milan in 1926.
The unknown Prince Calaf sings it in defiance against the beautiful but hard Princess Turandot, who sets three riddles to suitors wishing to wed her. If they answer incorrectly, they are beheaded. If they answer correctly, she can still execute him if she correctly guesses the suitor’s name.
Having answered the riddles correctly in the previous act, Calaf sings Nessun dorma to advise her that he will marry her: Il mio nome non sai! (My name you do not know!). The princess’s response is that none of her subjects shall sleep that night until they identify him, or else they will all be killed.
Nessun dorma is considered one of the most technically difficult arias to sing due to the fact its elongated notes sit high on the scale but need to be sung loudly.