"O Fortuna" is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the thirteenth century, part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana. It is a complaint about fate, and Fortuna, a goddess in Roman mythology and personification of luck.
In 1935/36, O Fortuna was set to music by the German composer Carl Orff for his cantata Carmina Burana where it is used as the opening and closing number. It opens on a slower pace with thumping drums and choir that drops quickly into a whisper building slowly into a steady crescendo of drums and short string and horn notes peaking on one last long powerful note and ending abruptly. A performance takes a little over two and a half minutes.
Orff's setting of the poem has become immensely popular and has been performed by countless classical music ensembles and popular artists. It can be heard in numerous movies and television commercials and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations. "O Fortuna" topped a list of the most-played classical music of the past 75 years in the United Kingdom.