In 1998, Aretha Franklin made an unlikely replacement for Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammy Awards, performing the Puccini aria “Nessun dorma” from Turandot in his place as he recovered from an illness. What resulted was an impassioned and unexpected delivery that seamlessly infused the operatic standard with her signature soul.
Now, nearly two decades later, Franklin withdrew from the Washington National Opera's June 3 Trading Voices on her doctor's orders. Stepping in this time was The Color Purple Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo, who lent her own vocal pyrotechnics to the Puccini melody alongside the WNO Orchestra and Chorus. Take a look at the video above.
Like Franklin, Erivo sings the final stanza in the original Italian, ending in a triumphant repetition of “Vincerò!” building to a full belt.
Erivo's upcoming projects include two major motion pictures: Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn's Widows alongside Viola Davis and André Holland, and a Harriet Tubman biopic from director Seith Mann and writer Gregory Allen Howard. She will return to the Kennedy Center November 3 and 4 as part of Fleming's VOICES series. Click here for more information.