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Seen and Heard Obituary

Luciano Pavarotti in Memoriam: a tribute by G�ran Forsling


When Luciano Pavarotti passed away at 5 a.m. CET this morning (6.9.2007) the world lost one of the greatest singers during the latter part of the 20th century. Not only did he endear himself to the opera lovers but he also became well-known to the general public, more than perhaps any other opera singer in recent times. He had a marvellous voice with a personal timbre and an ease and brilliance at the top that sent shivers along the spine of his listeners:  and in his early and mid-career he was also a ravishing lyrical singer with elegance and honeyed pianissimos.

What made him stand out and become a �man of the people� however,  was just as much his charming stage manners. He was not the most convincing actor on the operatic stage and when he started to gain weight in his forties he practically ceased acting. But thanks to his charisma, people wanted to hear and see him anyway and it was on the concert platform and through televised concerts � not least in harness with Domingo and Carreras as �The Three Tenors� � that he was adored by millions. His infectious smile, his enormous white hanky, his openness and generosity and his wholehearted intensity in whatever he sang � all this combined to a popular success for an opera singer among the masses that is almost unprecedented. His records were bestsellers, especially the Neapolitan songs and other light repertoire but on his website he wrote that he most of all wanted to be remembered as an opera singer.

He was born in Modena in Italy on 12 October 1935 and it was in his hometown he also died after a long fight against pancreatic cancer. He got his first musical influences through his father�s records with singers like Caruso, Schipa, Martinelli and Gigli. He also openly admitted his admiration for Jussi Bj�rling and was a honorary member of the Swedish Jussi Bj�rling Society. He started his training seriously at 19 in his hometown, singing for Amigo Pola and then for
Ettore Campogalliani, where one of his fellow students was his childhood-friend Mirella Freni, with whom he often appeared on stage and on recordings. During his student years he earned his living as school teacher.

He made his debut as Rodolfo in La boh�me on April 29, 1961 in Reggio Emilia; a sonically poor recording of  Che gelida manina exists, unclear if it is the actual premiere, but it displays an lyric voice of immense beauty. Within a few years he rose to fame, helped in no little degree through his collaboration with Joan Sutherland. Decca signed him up exclusively and complete recordings and recitals in a steady stream made him a household name among record collectors all over the world. �The King of the High C� became Decca�s soubriquet and the legendary recording of Donizetti�s La fille du r�giment, which was a sensation, gave ample proof in Tonio�s aria Ah! mes amis where the 9 high Cs were executed with an ease and brilliance that possibly no one before or since has been able to muster.

Gradually his voice grew in power and he took on roles like Calaf in Turandot, Radames in Aida and, the pinnacle for a dramatic tenor in the Italian repertoire, the title role in Verdi�s Otello. Nessun dorma from Turandot became a kind of signature song for him and it was the theme song on BBC�s coverage of the World Cup in Italy in 1990. The concert held by the Three Tenors at the Baths of Caracalla became the best selling classical record of all times.

In later years he cut down on his opera performances and concentrated more on concerts. His last appearance in an operatic role was as Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2004.

Luciano Pavarotti became a wealthy man through his singing but he also spent a lot on charity and he appeared at benefit concerts to raise money for various purposes. refugees worldwide, the victims of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the elimination of land mines world wide, and for Bosnia, Guatemala and Bosnia, to mention a few. According to the United Nations he helped raising more than 1.5 million US Dollars for charity � more than any other individual!

In most stories of success there is also a reverse side of the coin,  and in Pavarotti�s case he obtained a reputation as The King of another C, namely Cancellations. This caused bad relations with some opera houses and led to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to ban him for life. The Italian newpapers didn�t fight shy from wallowing in some of the scandals that also surrounded his career and the fact that he continued to sing roles that were less well suited for him. But despite all this and also his excursions into light repertoire there was no doubt that Pavarotti touched people�s hearts and one of the Italian Radio�s news broadcasts this morning opened with the words:
Il mondo piange� (The world weeps). In an interview on Swedish Radio at lunchtime, Jos� Carreras, singing at the V�rmland Classic Festival, said that he was proud to have been Pavarotti�s friend and colleague and that, although his demise was expected it is no less grievous. Swedish opera singer H�kan Hageg�rd, who also worked with Pavarotti, remembered him as a very conscientious singer who never compromised.

Many distinguished performers tend to pale in the eyes of posterity, but just as some literary works become immortalized, some singers also stay in the public conciousness. No one can prophesy with certainty, but it seems reasonable to believe that Luciano Pavarotti will be a household name to opera lovers for a long time � through personal memories from the present generation but even more through his many recordings. On a personal basis I would pick a handful of his opera sets from the late 1960s and the 1970s to represent his art. He went on making recordings during the 1980s and 1990s too, but his style of performance grew coarser, less elegant and sophisticated. To me � and I am sure many opera habitu�s endorse this opinion � �The Best of Pavarotti� is to be found here:

o        Donizetti: La fille du regiment (with Sutherland)

o        Donizetti: L�Elisir d�amore (with Sutherland)

o        Puccini: La boh�me (with Freni, Karajan conducting)

o        Puccini: Madama Butterfly (ditto)

o        Puccini: Turandot (with Sutherland and Caball�, Zubin Mehta conducting)

o        Verdi: Rigoletto (with Sutherland and Sherrill Milnes)

 Some other tenors may have peered deeper into their characters, one or two may have had more beautiful voices, maybe one of them may have been more brilliant but for sheer exuberance, vitality, generosity and charisma Luciano Pavarotti will be remembered as one of the really great tenors - the epitome of an opera singer for millions. From today (6.9.2007) the theatre in Modena carries his name � a worthy tribute from the authorities of his hometown. He is greatly missed.


G�ran Forsling

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, one of the longest established live music review web sites on the Internet, publishes original reviews of recitals, concerts and opera performances from the UK and internationally. We update often, and sometimes daily, to bring you fast reviews, each of which offers a breadth of knowledge and attention to performance detail that is sometimes difficult for readers to find elsewhere.

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Contributors: Marc Bridle, Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, G�ran Forsling,  Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, John Leeman, Sue Loder,Jean Martin, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, Raymond Walker, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)

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