“But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…”
Some pieces of music offer me a goosebump or two whenever I hear them. You’d imagine that after listening to them many times, their effect would lessen. It never does. How about you? Are there any that stir you in the same way?
My Reflection this week is of one of those pieces; ‘Nessun Dorma’. A very well-known aria from Puccini’s opera Turandot. Despite the beauty of the music, there is a bloody undertone running beneath. True of many moving pieces of opera.
The music has appeared in many films. From, ‘The Witches of East Wick’ to ‘Bend it like Beckham’ via ‘Mission Impossible’. The combination of film and music I found most memorable is in the 1984 film, ‘The Killing Fields’. The piece proving an emotive backdrop to Sydney Schanberg’s search for Dith Pran. Use of the music a spin on the edict of stories showing not telling to better engage their audience. The concept of none sleeping while searching for an answer transferring effortlessly from stage to celluloid.
The aria also features in various forms in more modern compositions. People even sang it to raise spirits in Italy during last year’s lockdown.
Another use that stays with me is Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition of the aria as the BBC’s theme music for the 1990 football World Cup played in Italy. The tournament that brought England to a semi-final and Paul Gascoigne to tears. By the end of the match, it wasn’t just Gascoigne who was crying. Most England followers who watched the game against Germany still wonder how long the ball took to land again from Chris Waddle’s penalty miss. High, wide, and not very handsome.
Given my love of football, I found myself goose-pimpled quite often during the tournament. I wasn’t alone. The aria became so popular it made number two in the charts. There aren’t too many pieces of classical music that have done that.
The World Cup also saw Pavarotti appear for the first time as a member of the ‘Three Tenors’ with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo. Those who may not recall the football tournament may well remember the concert they gave. That first concert led to many others around the world. In some ways, it also brought classical music, as popular entertainment, back to a mass audience.
So, here’s Nessun Dorma song by Pavarotti for whom, after the 1990 World Cup, it almost became a signature tune. For many his is the definitive rendition of the aria. Never mind that he was no longer the age or size to play such a romantic part on the stage.
Bring on those goosebumps.