Links to Great Vocal Performances (Live + Studio recordings)
Below you will find links to some of the finest vocal performances you will ever hear from all genres of music. Whilst there still may be faults in some of these performances, there is something great about them in one way or another; ie natural technique, brilliant tone, excellent feel or musicality, fantastic expression, deep emotional or spiritual connection etc. Make sure you listen to these clips with the volume turned up reasonably (but comfortably) high, otherwise the effect will be lost.
Opera Singers and Classical Singers:
Giacomo Lauri – Volpi – This video contains several excerpts from a film where Lauri – Volpi displays some unparralelled high notes sung in mezza voce (half voice), as well as some incredible full throttled power. The sweetness in his piano notes and the virility in his forte notes and the absolute ease with which he transitions between both is truly remarkable. Be sure to watch the whole clip as it contains the most amazing high D natural you will ever hear in your life!
Franco Corelli – “E lucevan le stelle” (From Puccini’s Tosca) – Live – This audio clip is taken from the legendary 1967 performance of Tosca in Parma, Italy. Corelli was in unbelievable voice that night and when the crowd did not receive an encore straight after this aria was sung, they demanded one at the end of the opera. ( They actually had to wheel an upright piano onto the stage to accompany Corelli while he sang the Neapolitan song “Core Ngrato.”) The most spectacular thing about this rendition is the awe inspiring diminuendo that Corelli does on the word “disciogliea.”
Franco Corelli – “La vita e inferno” (From Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino) – Live It goes without saying that mastering your breathing is a crucial part of perfecting your overall singing technique. For those of you who are studying with me, you will probably remember me speaking about Corelli’s breathing in your singing lessons. Well this clip demonstrates Corelli’s absolute mastery of the breath. To be honest, I cannot think of a singer who had or has better breathing than Corelli. You can hardly see him breathe, and you can almost never hear him breathe. Pay attention to the tiny movements he makes with his body as he breathes, if you don’t look closely enough you won’t even see them. Watch how easily and effortlessly he reaches the high notes in this aria, this is achieved from his impeccable breath support. If you want a free singing lesson that shows you correct breathing, watch this video!
Mario Del Monaco – “Vesti la giubba” (From Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci) – Del Monaco had one of the biggest dramatic tenor voices of all time; some think he actually had the biggest. But unlike many dramatic tenors, Del Monaco had incredible focus in his voice and loads of squillo, giving him a more exciting timbre. Del Monaco was also a true man of the theatre, possessing a natural theatrical flair that, combined with his voice, made him one of the most captivating tenors ever to walk the boards. This rendition of “Vesti la giubba” is one of his finest; the final moments are particularly exciting.
Enrico Caruso – “Una furtiva lagrima” (From Donizetti’s L’elisir D’amore) There have been many, many awe inspiring tenors throughout history, but many critics today still consider Caruso the greatest. It’s very difficult to find any weaknesses in Caruso’s voice or singing. His voice was not only massively large but also beautiful, rich, warm, velvety, flexible and capable of some very impressive coloratura. (As heard near the close of this aria; his speed and pin point tuning on the final cadenza is really remarkable.) Unlike many dramatic tenors, Caruso could also deliver a beautiful mezza voce (half voice) and was noted for his refined (yet passionate) singing . What is also noteworthy about Caruso’s voice is its balance. The Italian “Bel Canto” school of singing emphasises the importance of achieving the perfect balance in one’s voice, which they refer to as “chiaroscuro”, meaning bright and dark. Well Caruso’s voice exemplifies this ideal to perfection, and this is why his voice sounds so well balanced. This 1904 rendition of “Una furtiva lagrima” is absolutely sublime, easily the best version he recorded. His ability to play with the ebb and flow of this aria as well as the dynamic variation he displays is truly magnificent. This recording is also a great example of the many different ways one can deliver the same word. At one point he explodes on the word “cielo” (heavens), and just a few moments later he sings the same word so softly and sweetly that you would think that it had the opposite meaning! This is art!
Rosa Ponselle – “D’amor sull’ali rosee” (From Verdi’s Il Trovatore) Want a singing lesson? Then listen to this! Many regard Ponselle as the greatest soprano ever. She was one of the conductor Tullio Serafin’s “Three Vocal Miracles” along with Enrico Caruso and Titta Ruffo, and the record producer Walter Legge said she had “the most glorious voice that ever came from any woman’s throat.” Ponselle had an absolutely beautiful round, golden tone, the utmost refined artistry, and brilliant coloratura that was extremely unusual for a voice as large as hers. There are very few sopranos throughout history who can come close to matching her technical mastery and control of her instrument. This clip is a textbook example of perfection.
Rock Singers, Pop Singers, Soul Singers and R&B Singers:
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) – “Since i’ve been loving you” Led Zeppelin was undoubtedly one of the most amazing bands ever. Each member was a real muso who really knew their stuff, and the lead singer Robert Plant was no exception. Plant possesses an unbelievable vocal range which he displays in this song with freakish ease. But for me it is his raw, passionate emotion and complete absorption in the music that makes him legendary. Listen out for the high G towards the end, it’ll knock your socks off. And when I say high G, i mean the one above tenor high C.
Christina Aguilera – “The voice within” In my opinion Christina Aguilera is one of the few singers today who is truly impressive. Amazing power, passion and emotion…brilliant stuff. This song is one of my favourites.
Mariah Carey – “Hero” (Live) With a ridiculously large vocal range including her famous whistle register, not to mention exceptional agility, musicality and passion, Mariah is a true living legend. You can’t leave this song off the list. So here it is.
Freddie Mercury (Queen) – “Bohemian rhapsody” Freddie was an absolute genius in so many ways. Vocally he had an amazing range, gutsy power and the ability to sing softly and sweetly with ease, even in high range. But he was also an incredible musician and performer. Freddie was particularly noted for his live performances where his unique stage presence and high energy singing added so much to the excitement of Queen’s concerts. I had to include the original video clip for this song, mainly for the outrageous tight white, silky outfit that Freddie wears in it…classic.
Jeff Buckley – “Lilac wine” Who knows what this artistic genius would have produced in the years to come if he hadn’t tragically died so young. Jeff Buckley had unbelievable emotional understanding and connection with the music that he sang. His performances are profoundly moving, and “Lilac Wine” is a perfect vehicle to display this ability. I should warn you that this particular version of the song is accompanied by some slightly racy video footage from a Paul Newman movie. It is actually really beautiful and a great partner for the song, but may be a little much for some young viewers.
Aretha Franklin – “I say a little prayer” (Live) Aretha pretty much has it all, a great voice with plenty of power and range, lots of passion and fantastic rhythmical feel. This clip is timeless.
Elvis Presley – “Unchained melody” (Live) Well they don’t get much bigger than Elvis! What a lot of people today don’t quite understand about Elvis is how innovative and really unique he was. He was an absolute original. He also felt everything he sang, as can be seen in this clip. Recorded only several months before he died, this rendition of “Unchained melody” is really moving. Even when his body is clearly looking the worse for wear, he still delivers this song with so much conviction and commitment; just look at the sweat literally dripping off his face!
Elvis Presley – “Heartbreak hotel” (Live) I thought it would be appropriate to include some footage from early on in Elvis’ career seeing as I had some footage from right near the end. I always feel so much electricity from his performances… maybe it’s his dance moves.
Jazz Singers, Blues Singers and Swing Singers:
Ella Fitzgerald – “Misty” (Live) One of the immortals of jazz music, Ella had brilliant musicality, feel, phrasing and a heavenly voice. Unlike many female vocalists today, Ella rarely pushed her chest tone (except later in her career), and this resulted in her voice having a much sweeter, smoother and more feminine quality, whilst still retaining power and strength. This clip has some truly beautiful singing with the one let down being that it starts half way through the first phrase.
Michael Buble – “Feeling good” (Live) Thank God that we have at least some singers like Michael Buble today. With extremely stylish phrasing, a beautiful, super smooth voice and great charisma, Buble is a real class act. This version of “Feeling good” will make you…well…feel good!
Frank Sinatra – “One for my baby” Sinatra had one of the most distinctive voices ever heard, and he was an absolute unparalleled master of phrasing. When he sang he sounded like he was just talking to you by delivering the words in a more conversational way. This resulted in his singing sounding more truthful and direct. This song is made for him.