The Battle of the Nessuns

I’m too tired to think about anything city-related.

I have been trying to get my husband to diversify his opera listening, and he remains stubbornly loyal to Pavarotti, especially in all matters Turandot. But there are some very fine Nessuns out there, so I thought I’d assemble and share some.

Love the chorus here;

Placido Domingo (who, along with Idris Elba, is my boyfriend) sang a very fine Calaf in his day:

Richard Tucker


Gi-Cheon (very, very nice)

There is an important emotional transition in this aria for the character, Calaf. He is in love with a violent, powerful woman, and because of his love for her, he has prompted her to cause terrible suffering among her own people. The chorus speaks to the terrible cost his game-playing takes upon innocent people

(Il nome suo nessun saprà,
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!)

No one will know his name, and so we all will die!

He is aware of that suffering, and to no small degree blames himself. The turning point comes towards the end, where Calaf convinces himself that it’s going to be worth it. He is going to prevail over her coldness, and hence the big finish:

All’alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

At dawn, I shall win! (And repeat: I shall win! I shall win!)

He’s convincing himself, and others, that it’s all going to end, and it’s going to be right in the end.

Pretty singing isn’t enough for Calaf. There are PUH-LENTY of pretty songs in Puccini. What ultimately distinguishes great Puccini singers for is their ability to sell over-the-top emotional content in a believable manner, with empathy for a character (see Callas’and Hunag’s Cio-Cio San for soprano exemplars ).

Which is one reason why Pavarotti’s Nessun is really so damn great in the end. (And Gi-Cheon, Domingo, Correlli)…

and Paul Potts, too:

Ok, fine, here’s the Pavarotti to leave you with the chills:

Which do you like best?