So many singers have attempted to sing the legendary Puccini aria, Nessun Dorma, from the opera, Turandot and so many have failed to master the subtle nuances and the refined control it takes to correctly perform this song.
Considered to be one- if not the most difficult song- to master, it always amazes me that so many singers nowadays have the audacity to add it to their repertoire without consideration for the time, technique and expertise it requires to master all the technical and performing elements.
Everyone wants to perform this number and, as long as they can belt out the notes, perform it they do with little knowledge of what it takes to sing this song correctly.
The Nessun Dorma yardstick by which all performances should be measured was created by the legendary Luciano Pavarotti and singers would be wise to follow his lead and master the song correctly before taking it out on tour or adapting it to their own performing style. In other words, sing it clean!
Luciano Pavarotti was 59-years-old when he performed the second version of the aria in Los Angeles
He set the standard very high many years ago and his version is hard to beat. The aria flows from his mouth and his vocal tone is transparent and pure. And watch his face. There are no signs of strain anywhere. His mouth is round, his eyes and jaw are relaxed and his forehead is wrinkle-free. This enables him to focus and resonate the extremely high melodic line with consistency, the head voice central to the vocal mix. There is no strain in his voice, no constriction as he sustains and projects the tenor line.
If I can find fault, it would be that, perhaps, the emotion took a backseat to the vocal delivery. But, his vocal excellence cannot be overstated – this is operatic singing at its best.
So, who are Pavarotti’s true successors? Who are the real deals in this modern age? Here is my Masterclass list, seen here in alphabetical order.
Classical purists would disagree with me regarding Andrea Bocelli. Many feel that he made it to superstar status because of his blindness. Well, that did help his cause but in the above performance of Nessun Dorma there is no denying that the technical elements are in place. The round mouth, relaxed jaw, the expansive eye muscles, all contributed to a beautifully focused sound.
He does have a lighter approach to this song, almost tentative in fact, but the vocal sound is generally spot on and beautifully sustained.
However, the emotional elements were less visible during Bocelli’s performance, who was, perhaps, inhibited because of his blindness. Nevertheless, the vocal sound is liberated and consistent and devoid of any tension or constriction. The sound is where it should be – front, center and clean.
The talented Korean tenor, Park Gi-Cheon, is quite the unstoppable force. His clean, passionate performance of Nessun Dorma bears a striking resemblance to that of Luciano Pavarotti. Every note is in place, his facial features are open and relaxed and he delivers his vocal performance with a clean, uncluttered, perfectly focused and sustained manner. His phrasing is impeccable and the technical control is masterful.
Unfortunately, in this instance, the technical brilliance overshadows the performance aspects of this number, but he does nail every single note and phrase. Perhaps, the expressive elements will be revealed over the course of time.
Rising star, Fernando Varela, will blow your mind with his singular interpretation of this aria. There are many extraordinary moments during the above performance but two are worthy of particular mention here. At the 2:37 mark, his sustained crescendo on the word, splendera, is absolutely magnificent. The best I have ever heard. Then, at the end of the song, he adds a vocal surprise by adding two upper notes that rock the house during this Singapore performance. Watch it – your jaw will drop along with his!
His performance is intense, technically secure and his style is classical yet current. He makes classical music sound cool and edgy, mainly because he has embodied so many different styles of music in his performances. And, emotionally, he is in sync with the lyrics, communicating the emotion in an expressive and nuanced manner. Truly a signature performance and one that has not been duplicated by any other singer.
So, those are my Top 3 current performances of this operatic classic.
What – you say? No Paul Potts? Sorry, no. While this gentleman has a gorgeous voice, his technique is very green and his emotional approach even greener. I hope that he really invests his money into a solid vocal coach who will guide and shape him into a refined, technically sound vocal artist. The gift is there – but many singers have this vocal gift. Technique and study enable true stars to exceed and grow over the course of time.
How do you feel about my choices? Do they compare to Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition? Do you have any favourites that I may have missed? Please add your comments and links in the comments box below.