The 10 best Nessun Dormas of all time

12 September 2013, 16:21 | Updated: 4 January 2017, 10:58

Ten great performances of Puccini's operatic epic, and ten incredible top Bs.

Placido Domingo

No-one gets the drama across quite like Domingo here, performing on stage as part of Turandot itself. He's lovestruck, boundless with energy and desperate to open up, but his impeccable control keeps things under wraps until that incredible final phrase. Applause well and truly earned.

Joseph Calleja

He's been dubbed 'the new Pavarotti' by especially eager sections of the classical press, but one listen to Calleja's Nessun Dorma confirms that, rather than a direct comparison to the great tenor, he should be judged on his own merits - and his merits don't get much better than this.

Mario Lanza

Lanza was the first pop star tenor, the first tenor to really break through into popular consciousness. He had only done a little 'proper' opera by the time he came to prominence, but his reading of Nessun Dorma is truly powerful. Here, he sings it as part of the film Serenade, his penultimate movie performance that featured a variety of operatic arias.

Andrea Bocelli

Few tenors have quite so clear a voice as Andrea Bocelli, so the plaintive opening section of Nessun Dorma suits him perfectly. There are people who decry Bocelli's ability at the top end of his register, but he sounds perfectly comfortable here, performing at his iconic 'A Night In Tuscany' show.

Jussi Björling

This is a truly luxurious interpretation by the Swedish tenor - listen to how he extends certain notes to give them more impact, milking them for drama as he goes. But there's also something rather intimate about it, accompanied only by piano in front of a clearly appreciative crowd at Carnegie Hall.

Franco Corelli

Corelli, like Björling, is a fan of drawing out certain phrases to give them emphasis, and you can hear him do it from the very beginning of this impeccably costumed performance. 

Beniamino Gigli

This studio recording of Puccini's most famous aria is surprisingly efficient - Gigli doesn't bother with all the over-wrought showboating that is so easy to fall into, he just  rocks up, gets the job done and leaves it at that. 

José Carreras

Another member of the The Three Tenors, another scintillating Nessun Dorma. Taken from a performance in Vienna in 1983, this is another interesting version, not only because of Carreras' stony-faced performance, but because of how he and conductor Lorin Maazel toy with the speed - especially at the climax.

Francesco Merli

This is an incredible recording for several reasons. Firstly, it's taken from the first time that Turando was ever recorded in its entirety in 1937, but more interestingly, it also shows just how indulgent subsequent tenors are with its performance. Merli sticks exactly to the score, and doesn't hold that famous long note at the end at all - completely changing how it sounds to modern ears. This is precisely how Puccini wrote it, too - so this is probably the most 'authentic' version out there.

Luciano Pavarotti

Whether you think it's the best one or not, it can't be argued that without Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma it wouldn't be half as popular as it is. That incredible live performance, the soundtrack to the 1990 World Cup, the incredible sales… everything aligned for Puccini, Pavarotti and Nessun Dorma at just the right time.