Gregory Kunde sings Nessun Dorma

American operatic tenor Gregory Kunde (born on February 24, 1954) has been singing for decades at not only a high level but also high tessitura. Having conquered the high F (above tenor high C), he now is conquering the spinto repertoire. He already has entered his 60s, yet sounds remarkably fresh. Here he sings perhaps the most famous of all tenor arias, “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini. Recorded on July 12, 2015 inside Carrara Cathedral. Piano: Giulio Zappa.

Gregory Kunde

Gregory Kunde
Gregory Kunde

Gregory Kunde studied choral conducting and voice at Illinois State University before making his professional debut in 1978 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as Cassio in Otello, later singing Prunier in La rondine, and Vanya in Katya Kabanova. He appeared at the Opéra de Montréal as Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette, and as Arturo in I puritani, opposite Luciana Serra, which revealed his affinity for the bel canto repertory and his impressive upper register, reaching a high F (above the tenor high C) in falsettone. He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon.

He won considerable acclaim in Europe in Les Huguenots, A Life for the Tsar, and Anna Bolena, and at the Pesaro Festival in 1992, as Idreno in Semiramide, and in 1993, as Rinaldo in Armida, opposite Renée Fleming.

Other notable roles include; Mitridate, re di Ponto, Rodrigo in La donna del lago, Arnold in Guillaume Tell, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, Enée in Les Troyens etc. In November 2012 he made an unexpected, successful debut as Verdi’s Otello in Venice, becoming possibly the first tenor able to sing both Rossini’s and Verdi’ s version in the same year.

He can be heard on disc notably as Benvenuto Cellini, and as Gérald in Lakmé, opposite Natalie Dessay.

Nessun Dorma

Nessun dorma is one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera. It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot. However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded.

Prince Calaf attempt the impossible.

Her first riddle is told:
“What is born each night and dies at dawn?”
Prince Calaf answers: “Hope!”. Correct.

Turandot, unaffected, asks her second riddle:
“What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire?”
“Blood.” Calaf is right again. No suitor has proceeded this far, ever. This time, the princess becomes unnerved. She asks her third riddle:

“What is like ice yet burns?”

Silence falls over the crowd. A few moments later, Calaf shouts, “Turandot!” He is right again. The crowd cheers and congratulates Calaf, thankful his life was not lost and future lives were saved.

Nonetheless, the cruel princess recoils at the thought of marriage to him. She pleads with her father to spare her marriage to Prince Calaf, some stranger. Her father refuses. Prince Calaf, in order to appease the princess, offers her another chance by challenging her to guess his name by dawn. (As he kneels before her, the Nessun dorma theme makes a first appearance, to his words, “Il mio nome non sai!”) If she does so, she can execute him; but if she does not, she must marry him. The cruel and emotionally cold princess then decrees that none of her subjects shall sleep that night until his name is discovered. If they fail, all will be killed.

As the final act opens, it is now night. Calaf is alone in the moonlit palace gardens. In the distance, he hears Turandot’s heralds proclaiming her command. His aria begins with an echo of their cry and a reflection on Princess Turandot:

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!

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!

Just before the climactic end of the aria, a chorus of women is heard singing in the distance:

Il nome suo nessun saprà,
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!

No one will know his name,
and we will have to, alas, die, die!

Calaf, now certain of victory, sings:

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

Vanish, o night!
Fade, you stars!
Fade, you stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!

Sources

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