Winter 2007





Luciano Pavarotti Opera's Best Friend



​by Corrado Cusmano



Luciano Pavarotti was that rarest of individuals – an artist who transcends his art to become an iconic figure indelibly etched in the collective consciousness. Shortly after announcing he was planning to resume his farewell tour, begun in 2004 and interrupted shortly thereafter by pancreatic cancer, he succumbed to the disease last September 6 in his hometown of Modena.


His desire to resume touring, despite being ill, is a testament to both his zest for life and his need to per- form. For more than 30 years Pavarotti had the lead role on the world stage. The main role he played was that Luciano Pavarotti – a man larger than life, both figuratively and literally.


It was in February of 1972, during a performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera that the world took notice of Luciano Pavarotti – a performance in which the young tenor effort lessly sang an aria containing nine high Cs. He attained pop-star status after his performance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy with fellow tenors Placido Domingo and José Carreras, during the famed “three tenors” concert.


What made Pavarotti a compelling figure is that he not only met people’s expectations of what a great tenor should sound and look like on stage, he embodied what people expected of such a figure off the stage, as well. There were no half measures for Luciano Pavarotti: the ubiquitous white handkerchief to wipe the prodigious amount of sweat from his brow, the oversized tux, the abundant charm, and a smile that went from ear to ear. Everything about him was intended for the appreciation of his admiring fans. And of course, he was blessed with arguably the most powerful singing voice of his generation. Without a doubt, the “three tenors” concerts and recordings attained the success they did because of Pavarotti. It was Pavarotti that fans wanted to hear!

  Accenti PASSINGS Luciano Pavarotti Opera's Best Friend Corrado Cusmano

Pavarotti was the hub from which the spokes emanated. This was clearly demonstrated by his foray into pop music – concerts and recordings billed as “Pavarotti and Friends.” But this too was incidental to his being on stage again, where he belonged, surrounded by the likes of Elton John, Sting, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Bono.


The concerts raised money for charities that were dear to him, and lesser mortals got to orbit his sphere, even if only briefly. And in so doing, musical legitimacy was bestowed upon them (the Spice Girls excepted).


But music was only part of the Pavarotti mystique. Pavarotti demonstrated that there is much in living life for the moment and to the fullest. Opera was his vehicle toward this pursuit. He confounded the critics and the opera purists. Many derided his musical escapades and other projects as self-indulgent and sell- outs. But then, what is the point of breathing rarefied air if you can’t share it. This is the Pavarotti legacy, bringing opera – one of the least accessible musical forms – to a wider audience, and proving that you can have fun doing it.


Wherever Luciano Pavarotti may be now, he is surely basking in the aura of a standing ovation, smiling from ear to ear, and enjoying the moment. 




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