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Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti

A Look at Luciano Pavarotti's Performance of "Nessun Dorma"

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Luciano Pavorotti
Jack Mitchell/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Luciano Pavarotti was certainly no one hit wonder, but for many people outside of the classical music world, it's his performance of "Nessun Dorma" that they know. Why? Most likely because of his performance of the aria from Pucini's opera, Turandot, during the 1990 FIFA World Cup, which was the tournament's theme song. (Learn about the history of "Nessun Dorma," as well as the "Nessun Dorma" lyrics and translation.) Millions of people had tuned in to see the event, and besides getting an eyeful of soccer, they got an earful of Luciano Pavarotti. It's no surprise that his Three Tenors concert, which took place on the eve of the tournament's final game and was seen by over 800 million people, became the biggest selling classical album of all time. (Preview, purchase, and download it here.)

What Makes Pavarotti's "Nessun Dorma" So Special?

Most people, even those who know nothing about classical music and opera, if given recordings of three different tenors without knowing who's who, will pick Pavarotti as the best singer hands down. "Nessun Dorma" is a difficult song to sing, but Pavarotti sure had an easy time doing it. He sings it with such ease, such clarity, it's unreal. Other singers just don't measure up. Need proof? Here are a few YouTube videos of various singers and Pavarotti. Listen for the differences.

Let's start with Paul Potts' performance on the popular television show, Britain's Got Talent. Apart from the apparent lack of training, he has a lovely voice, but that's just not enough to do justice to such a beautiful and powerful aria. It's like if "Nessun Dorma" was a diamond ring, he just delivered it to you in a brown paper sack filled with mud. (That's sounds pretty mean, doesn't it? I don't mean for it to be, honestly!) Andre Bocelli, a singer to whom Pavarotti gave his personal approval, has a beautiful voice with clarity and warm tone, however, his performance lacks energy, as if it's without life or meaning. Jussi Bjorling's performance is probably the second best I've heard (though I find the tempo a bit dragging). His voice is just as bright as Pavarotti's, but his phrasing isn't as good. Franco Corelli, too, has a beautiful voice with a well-rounded tone, but his vowels are much darker. There's also a heaviness to his voice, which sometimes pulls his notes slightly under pitch. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it's hard to say Pavarotti's performance isn't anything short of amazing.
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