|Year of Birth:||1909|
|Year of Death:||1994|
Herva Nelli (January 9, 1909 – May 31, 1994) was an Italian-born operatic soprano.
Named after the French socialist Gustave Hervé, she was born in Florence, where she attended a convent school. At the age of ten, however, she and her family left Italy for the United States, settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she later studied at the Pittsburgh Music Institute.
In 1937, the soprano made her operatic debut with Brooklyn's Salmaggi Opera, as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. In ensuing seasons, she gained experience with that ensemble, presenting roles that would form the core of her repertoire, including Leonora in Verdi's La forza del destino (with Sydney Rayner as Don Alvaro, 1943) and another Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore. She also sang the title roles of Bellini's Norma, Verdi's Aida (with Bernardo de Muro at the end of his career, 1944), and Ponchielli's La Gioconda. In 1947, she made her New York City Opera debut, as Santuzza, conducted by Julius Rudel.
Also in 1947, Nelli successfully auditioned for the conductor Arturo Toscanini (following the recommendation of Licia Albanese), and sang the part of Desdemona in the NBC Symphony Orchestra's concert version of Verdi's Otello, opposite Ramón Vinay. This led to the famous series of broadcasts of other Verdi works, which were later issued on records by RCA Victor: Aida (1949, which was televised as well), Mrs Alice Ford in Falstaff (with Giuseppe Valdengo, 1950), the Requiem (with Fedora Barbieri, Giuseppe Di Stefano, and Cesare Siepi, 1951), and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera (with Jan Peerce and Robert Merrill, 1954), which were Toscanini's final operatic performances. When Toscanini died three years later, he left his protégée his baton in his will.