Rhythm in Words

February 14, 2015

Love Conquers All

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Written by: Nydia O
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Turandot's kiss

I am reposting this from Valentine’s Day 2013 because this is truly a very romantic opera, and because opera is timeless. Enjoy!

Most music lovers have probably listened to Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot’s most popular song: Nessun Dorma (Nobody Shall sleep).  I had enjoyed this music  plenty of times without knowing its source. It had this quality to move me  with its tremendous passion, and victorious ecstasy.

I later researched its meaning and found out the opera is set in Peking in legendary times. The plot begins when a Mandarin reads an edit stating that any prince seeking to marry ice-hearted princess Turandot must answer three riddles – and if he fails, he will die. Several suitors were executed, and eventually the princess turns against all men, and promises none will ever possess her.  After several intriguing details, a young prince named Calàf who was smitten by the princess’ beauty, decides to accept the three-riddled challenge. Several people, including the princess’ father; aged Emperor Altoum, try to convince Calàf to abstain from his purpose, but every time he refuses.

The three riddles were:

1-     What is born each night and dies each dawn? Hope –  Calàf answered correctly

2-     What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire? – Blood – the answer was correct.

3-     What is like ice but burns? Turandot!! Cried Calàf and the crowd cheered in triumph.

But it was all in vain, for Turandot begged her father not to abandon her to a stranger. This was to no avail, but generously Calàf offers Turandot his own riddle: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.

Desperate to get out of this deal and avoid marrying Calàf, the princess proclaims that no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger’s name. The town’s mob threatens Calàf with daggers trying unsuccessfully to learn his name. Much drama develops, some people die to reach a dramatic climax that lingers through the night. It is in this night that the song Nessun Dorma unfolds, with lyrics somewhat like these:

Nobody shall sleep! Nobody shall sleep!

Even you oh princess

In your cold room,

Watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope.

But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know…


No, No!

On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines,

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

Chorus – No one will know his name and must alas die!

Vanish o night,

Set stars! Set stars!

At dawn, I will win, I will win! I will win!

All’ alba vincero!

All’ alba vincero!


Eventually, and after some deliciously dramatic scenes, princess Turandot remains alone to confront  Calàf who takes her in his arms, forcing her to kiss him. This is the first time princess Turandot experiences physical passion, and she weeps. Calàf tells her his name, which turns out to be LOVE.


Isn’t this so ridiculously romantic? No wonder every time I listened to this opera I got goose bumps. The love and romance and the story are great, but nothing like the feeling of triumph!! To be able to “conquer” your one true love; to get a princess to fall in love with him; someone she repudiated. When we think about it, even today people set eyes on someone, and dream about ways of getting that person to notice them. Ah the pains of love!


I stumbled recently upon a YouTube video of the time Paul Potts, a mobile phone salesman from Wales back then, who sang Nessum Dorma as a contestant of the Britain’s Got Talent show a few years ago. He went on to win the talent show and has since recorded a few albums.  His story makes the song’s impact even more meaningful. Potts, not only wins over the heart of millions of viewers, but just like Calàf moved the princes to tears with his kiss, Potts moves the audience to tears; his love of music triumphs!


Whatever or whomever it is you love, may you triumph…

Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody!


For those of you out there who are less romantic, but still love Puccini’s music, you might find this article by the Opera Nut very entertaining.

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .

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