Nonetheless, my exposure to opera has remained limited - due both to the sad fact that I do not appreciate many of the operatic story lines, and that I have small opportunity to see them (I have watched one on video...). This aria, however, I find simply breath-taking. It is from the opera Turandot, the viewing of which would definitely be on my bucket list, if I kept one!
Turandot - the cold-hearted, feels-no-emotion princess of the land - has declared that whoever desires to win her hand must first answer three riddles. He who answers correctly will be her husband, but he who cannot solve the riddles looks forward only to execution. (Told you she was cold-hearted.) Enter the Prince of Tartary, who is living incognito since his kingdom was overthrown and he and his father were exiled. When first he sees the Princess Turandot - at the execution of the latest prince who sought her hand - he falls instantly in love with her (talk about seeing past some serious flaws), and determines to attempt an answer to her riddles, since life without her is as death anyway (yes, opera is dramatic - what of it?). Being a true hero, however, he answers the riddles correctly, only to have Turandot greatly dismayed at the prospect of actually having to marry him. So, he makes her a little deal. If she can discover his true name, he will willingly allow her to execute him as though he had not answered the riddles. She jumps on the offer, being, as I said before, cold-hearted and unable to feel any emotion beyond pride. Declaring that no one shall sleep until she discoverers the mysterious man's name (and actually, if my memory serves, threatening to kill everyone if they don't discover it), she begins - unbeknownst to the Prince - to torture a little servant girl who knows the Prince's true name and (to muddle things up a bit) is in love with him. Meanwhile, the Prince declares, in this aria, "Nessun Dorma" ("no one sleeps"), that as the sun begins to rise the next morning, he will whisper his name - "Love" - for Turandot's ears alone... Enjoy!