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.
The WNO Opera Gala also featured performances by Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Leslie Odom Jr., and Jordan Donica of the national tour of Hamilton.