Monday, September 10, 2007

No One Will Sleep

Here's an old clip of Pavarotti's take on Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," from Turandot.

The beauty and majesty of this aria cannot be overstated...

Musically, it starts on the ground and climbs and climbs and climbs until it reaches the heavens.

Pavarotti absolutely owned this aria; it's his signature piece. While it doesn't require particularly difficult scalular runs, it's the perfect showcase for his emotional genius. Watch as it unfolds; he's completely inside the music. He barely blinks his eyes.

After nailing his final, magnificent high B, watch his facial expressions. They communicate triumph, disorientation and ecstasy, all at the same time. He looks like a prize fighter that's scored a surprise 12th round knockout.

An opera singer attempting a piece like this is walking a tightrope. One lapse of concentration and you're screwed. Pavarotti always seemed to make it across the rope safely to the other side.

(Programming note: if you love this piece, you'll want to compare versions from other great tenors. For two of my favorites, check out the rich masculinity of Mario del Monaco's version, and for a different approach, Placido Domingo sings with incredible clarity in the high register, though he struggles a bit with the lower notes.)


johnNokc said...

Turan-dough or Turan-dot?

Turandot is a Persian word and name meaning "the daughter of Turan", Turan being a region of Central Asia which used to be part of the Persian Empire. In Persian, the fairy tale is known as "Turandokht", with "dokht" being a contraction for "Dokhtar" (meaning "Daughter"), and both the "kh" and "t" are clearly pronounced. However, according to Puccini scholar Patrick Vincent Casali, the final "t" should not be sounded in the pronunciation of the opera's name or when referring to the title character, as Puccini never pronounced it (according to Rosa Raisa, the first singer to play the title role) and, as Casali notes, the musical setting of many of Calaf's intonations of the name makes sounding the final "t" all but impossible.

Btw, I saw Pav sing the role of Calaf at The Met when I lived in NYC. His Nessun Dorma was, of course, extremely well received. However, the biggest ovation of that night went to Oklahoma's own Leona Mitchell when she sang Tu che di gel sei cinta, perhaps my all-time favorite aria.

Liu or Calaf, both sing aria's that bring tears to the eyes.

Ahhhhh .....

johnNokc said...

Mi scuso! E "Signore, ascolta!", no "Tu che di gel sei cinta."

grizzard said...

John, I envy you seeing Pav as Calaf! Sharing the stage with Leona Mitchell, no less!

Interesting background on the word "Turandot," too.