Lesson 2: Learning “Nessun Dorma”

Aim: How do opera singers use their voices to tell a story?
Summary: Students will explore the ways opera singers express emotion through dramatic musical storytelling.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide; chart paper, markers
Standards: GA: ESGM2.PR.1, ESGM2.RE.1, ESGM2.CN.1, ESGM2.CN.2
Vocabulary: aria, dynamics, pitch, repetition
See Glossary →

Sing and Interpret “Nessun Dorma”
  • One of an opera singer’s most important jobs is to act out the character and be a clear story teller. 

  • Explain that Timothy is singing the character of Calaf (Kahl- AHF), an unknown prince in the opera Turandot

  • Share what has happened in the opera before the aria, “Nessun Dorma.” An aria is a solo song in an opera.

Princess Turandot says she will only marry a man who can solve her three riddles. Prince Calaf succeeds, but Turandot goes back on her word and says she will not marry Calaf. He tells her he will let her out of her promise to marry only if she can find out his real name before sunrise. She doesn’t really want to marry anyone so she orders all of her subjects to not sleep until they can discover his real name. 

Track 14 – “Nessun Dorma

  • Before sharing the translation of the aria, listen to Track 14 and ask:  

What do you think this aria is about?

How do you think the character Calaf is feeling in this aria?

What in the music makes you think that?

Are there any words/parts of the aria that stand out to you? What makes you say that?

Track 15 – “Nessun Dorma” (final phrases)

  • After prediction discussion, share the translation to “Nessun Dorma.” Read aloud and ask students to revisit their predictions.
    • Share the music and have students sing the final phrases of “Nessun Dorma” (in the correct octave for healthy singing) Track 15
    • Chart their answers reflecting how the music helps tell the meaning of the words. Things to draw out: repetition, dynamics (volume of the music), length of note, pitch (how high or low the voice sounds)

Nessun Dorma


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!

Il nome suo nessun saprà,

E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!

Dilegua, o notte!

Tramontate, stelle!

Tramontate, stelle!

All’alba vincerò!

Vincerò! Vincerò!


None shall sleep! None shall sleep!

Not even you, O Princess

In your cold bedroom,

Watch the stars that tremble with love and hope

But my secrets 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

No one will know his name

And we will have to alas, die!

Vanish oh, night

Fade you stars!

Fade you stars

At dawn I will win!

I win, I win!

Becoming an Operatic Storyteller

The Italian composer, Puccini wrote Turandot, and uses pitch (high & low), dynamics (volume) and repetition to help Calaf share with the audience his confidence in getting Turandot to marry him.  Working in pairs, students will choose one of the below scenarios (either display scenario choices on board, work sheet, or aloud) and use musical elements to say or sing the words, either in Italian or English, to inform character choices and tell their story. If there is time encourage students to include body language and gestures. Have each pair perform their scenario. If necessary, teacher can model for clarity. Use the Track 15 for students to learn the final phrases of “Nessun Dorma”

Track 15 – “Nessun Dorma” (final phrases)

Scenario 1: You are very confident that you will win

Scenario 2: You know you are out matched and scared that you might not win

Scenario 3: You don’t care if you win

Scenario 4: You don’t want to win, but know you will let someone down if you lose

All’alba vincerò!

Vincerò! Vincerò!

At dawn I will win!

I win, I win!

Creative Extension: Write Your Own Riddles

In the opera Turandot, Calaf has to answer Princess Turandot’s three riddles.  

  • Turn to SG 16, have students read the riddle examples either in pairs or as a class.
    • “What are two things that you can never eat at breakfast?”
      • Answer: lunch & dinner
    • “What has ears, but cannot hear?”
      • Answer: Corn
    • “What falls in winter, but never gets hurt?”
      • Answer: Snow
  • Ask students what they think makes a successful riddle. Using SG 16, have the students write their own riddle.
  • Have them share with other classmates

Literacy Extension: When Marian Sang and Bravo! Brava!

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan
Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew by Anne Siberell
Musical Word Wall

Add aria, dynamics, pitch, and repetition to the Musical Word Wall.
See Glossary →

PDF Downloads

↓ SG16 Write Your Own Riddles

Audio Tracks

Track 14 – “Nessun Dorma

Track 15 – “Nessun Dorma” (final phrases)

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