Go to Mark's site and read the whole thing - the only thing I have to add are the videos below.
As always with these Song Of The Week posts, I find the history and connections kind of fascinating. One thing I'd never heard before is that during the 1998 Grammy awards (something I've never in my life paid attention to), Pavarotti (wiki) was to sing Nessum Dorma and backed out due to illness with 20 minutes notice. Aretha Franklin stepped up and filled in (yes, with some unoperatic embellishments, but in her case, that's a feature, not a bug):
Here's the famous Pavarotti version:
And several years ago there was that meek-looking little guy with terrible teeth who stepped up to the mike on a Brit talent show and made himself famous:
Apparently there's a connection with the World Cup. which is a bit like the NFL playoffs but involves soccer instead of real football.
I particularly like this bit:
Whether or not it is, as Frank Johnson said, the last great song, it's certainly the last popular operatic aria. "Nessun Dorma" was written in 1924, the same year as "It Had To Be You" and "Fascinating Rhythm", a time when Italian opera was still a source of hit music. But Puccini died that November, leaving the final moments of Turandot to be pieced together from his sketches. And, with his passing, a living breathing mainstream art form ended, too. Nothing written since has resonated the way Madam Butterfly or Tosca do. At the premiere of Turandot at La Scala in 1926, Toscanini conducted up to the very last note Puccini committed to paper, and then turned to the audience and said:
At this point, the maestro laid down his pen.
And so did an entire operatic tradition.