“None Shall Sleep”

The Story of Turandot is a beautiful, but sad story. Not your typical Romeo and Juliet (no offense intended, we all know that Romeo and Juliet is a masterpiece) not your typical Cinderella either. Turandot is very different from your regular romance stories, but one thing remains the same, the message of true love.

The first time I learned of Turandot was from a Korean manga, One Thousand and One Nights; and like the title says, it’s another version of the The Arabian Nights. The first story Shahrazad tells the king is the story of Turandot. I have not read The Arabian Nights completely, but I believe that the story of Turandot is not from the real version of  The Arabian Nights. Although it is often reported that Turandot is based on a story from The Arabian Nights, but many others disagree with that theory. In fact, Turandot is an opera, but even before it became an opera, Turandot was a fable written by Carlo Gozzi, to later become famous by Friedrich Schiller, a German playwright.

The Opera, written by the great Giacomo Puccini, was not finished; at least not by Puccini. The great master died while in the middle of writing the opera, and so the end was not complete. Arturo Toscanini, a conductor,  gave the opera to a pupil of Puccini, so that he could finish the end. However, *Toscanini was not satisfied with the ending the student wrote and so, on its opening night, the conductor stopped before the final scene and said: “Here the Opera ends, because at this point the maestro died.” Of course that Turandot was still published with the ending that was written by Puccini’s pupil.

The story goes something like this:

Turandot was the princess of China. She was so beautiful all the princes from other regions of the world wanted to marry her; but she was also arrogant, cold, and extremely cruel. The rule was she would wed he who could answer her three riddles; if the answers were not correct, he would be beheaded. One hundred heads had rolled.

A handsome young man, aids a slave and her master, recognizing the master as his long lost father, the king of Tartars. Timur, Calaf’s father, tells him he has lost the kingdom and is now escaping from his enemies with the help of the loyal slave Liu. Now Calaf, stricken by Turandot’s beauty, is next in line to try the riddles. Liu and his father try to persuade him otherwise, but Calaf’s mind is made to win over the cold princess’s heart.

The first riddle Turandot asks is: “What is born at night, and dies at dawn.” “Hope.” Calaf answers correctly.

Turandot then asks: “What is red and warm as fire, yet it is not.” “Blood.” Answers Calaf correctly once more. It was as far as nobody had ever been able to go before. Amazed, Turandot then asks an even more difficult riddle: “What is ice and yet burns.” Calaf said with confidence: “Turandot.”

Turandot could not stand defeat, and pleaded her father not to let her marry the prince.  Calaf, seeing how desperate Turandot pleads to her father, made her a proposition; If she can call him by his name  by dawn,  he would sacrifice himself and not marry her, but if she could not say his name, she would have to keep true to her promise.

Turandot orders no one should sleep until she could learn of Calaf’s name. But it was impossible for her to find out of his name as nobody knew who he was, except for an old man and a slave they had seen together with the prince that morning. Hours before dawn they bring to the palace Calaf’s father, Timur, and Liu. To save Calaf’s father, Liu asks for him to be left alone for she alone knows the prince. The slave is then torture, but never releases her prince’s name. Turandot is shaken by the slaves determination and asks what gives her such power; the slaves then answers her: “Love.” Calaf arrives at the scene and Liu afraid  he will reveal his name to the princess in order to save her, kills herself with a dagger and tells Turandot that through her sacrifice she will learn the meaning of true love.  Calaf then forces Turandot to kiss him, so passionately and violent that Turandot cries for the first time. Confident he was won her over, the prince reveals his name. Turandot then walks over to her father and announces the prince’s identity: “His name is, Love.”

The famous Opera aria “Nessun Dorma” is from this Opera by Puccini. It is sang during the third act, when the princess Turandot orders no one should sleep until she learns the prince’s name. Thus the name “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep)

I find, there are many talented tenors; but surely, no other can sing “Nessun Dorma” as the grand Luciano Pavarotti. He makes you feel the story with his expressions while singing “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 saprà! No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo dirò quando la luce splenderà! Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio che ti fa mia!”

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! 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! And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!”

Verse lyrics from; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nessun_Dorma

*Toscanini’s quote; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Toscanini;


2 thoughts on ““None Shall Sleep”


    Another Puccini favorite of mine is a song called “Un bel giorno per morire” translates to “A beautiful day to die” from his acclaimed opera “Madame Butterfly”

    Great Post! I really enjoyed the story!

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