Tuesday February 23, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Luciano Pavarotti
On this Day:
In 1963, Luciano Pavarotti made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in “La traviata.”
Luciano Pavarotti Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI 12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007) was an Italian operatic tenor who during the late part of his career crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most acclaimed and loved tenors of all times. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the quality of his tone, and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century, achieving the honorific title “King of the High Cs”.
As one of the Three Tenors, who performed their first concert during the 1990 FIFA World Cup before a global audience, Pavarotti became well known for his televised concerts and media appearances. From the beginning of his professional career as a tenor in 1961 in Italy to his final performance of “Nessun dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Pavarotti was at his best in bel canto operas, pre-Aida Verdi roles, and Puccini works such as La bohème, Tosca, Turandot and Madama Butterfly. He sold over 100 million records, and the first Three Tenors recording became the best-selling classical album of all time. Pavarotti was also noted for his charity work on behalf of refugees and the Red Cross, amongst others. He died from pancreatic cancer on 6 September 2007.
Luciano Pavarotti was born in 1935 on the outskirts of Modena in Northern Italy, the son of Fernando Pavarotti, a baker and amateur tenor, and Adele Venturi, a cigar factory worker. Although he spoke fondly of his childhood, the family had little money; its four members were crowded into a two-room apartment. According to Pavarotti, his father had a fine tenor voice but rejected the possibility of a singing career because of nervousness. World War II forced the family out of the city in 1943. For the following year they rented a single room from a farmer in the neighbouring countryside, where the young Pavarotti developed an interest in farming.
After abandoning the dream of becoming a football goalkeeper, Pavarotti spent seven years in vocal training. Pavarotti’s earliest musical influences were his father’s recordings, most of them featuring the popular tenors of the day—Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Tito Schipa, and Enrico Caruso. Pavarotti’s favourite tenor and idol was Giuseppe Di Stefano and he was also deeply influenced by Mario Lanza, saying: “In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror”. At around the age of nine he began singing with his father in a small local church choir.
In addition to music, as a child Pavarotti enjoyed playing football. When he graduated from the Scuola Magistrale he was interested in pursuing a career as a professional football goalkeeper, but his mother convinced him to train as a teacher. He subsequently taught in an elementary school for two years but finally decided to pursue a music career. His father, recognizing the risk involved, only reluctantly gave his consent.
Pavarotti began the serious study of music in 1954 at the age of 19 with Arrigo Pola, a respected teacher and professional tenor in Modena who offered to teach him without remuneration. According to conductor Richard Bonynge, Pavarotti never learned to read music.
In 1955, he experienced his first singing success when he was a member of the Corale Rossini, a male voice choir from Modena that also included his father, which won first prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. He later said that this was the most important experience of his life, and that it inspired him to become a professional singer. At about this time Pavarotti first met Adua Veroni. They married in 1961.
When his teacher Arrigo Pola moved to Japan, Pavarotti became a student of Ettore Campogalliani, who at that time was also teaching Pavarotti’s childhood friend, Mirella Freni, whose mother worked with Luciano’s mother in the cigar factory. Like Pavarotti, Freni went on to become a successful opera singer; they would go on to collaborate in various stage performances and recordings together.
During his years of musical study, Pavarotti held part-time jobs in order to sustain himself—first as an elementary school teacher and then as an insurance salesman. The first six years of study resulted in only a few recitals, all in small towns and without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal cords, causing a “disastrous” concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography: “Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve”.
Pavarotti annually hosted the Pavarotti & Friends charity concerts in his home town of Modena Italy, joining with singers from all parts of the music industry, including B.B. King, Andrea Bocelli, Zucchero, Jon Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Bono, James Brown, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Dolores O’Riordan, Sheryl Crow, Céline Dion, Anastacia, Elton John, Deep Purple, Meat Loaf, Queen, George Michael, Tracy Chapman, the Spice Girls, Sting and Barry White to raise money for several UN causes. Concerts were held for War Child, and victims of war and civil unrest in Bosnia, Guatemala, Kosovo and Iraq. After the war in Bosnia, he financed and established the Pavarotti Music Centre in the southern city of Mostar to offer Bosnia’s artists the opportunity to develop their skills. For these contributions, the city of Sarajevo named him an honorary citizen in 2006.
He performed at benefit concerts to raise money for victims of tragedies such as the Spitak earthquake that killed 25,000 people in northern Armenia in December 1988, and sang Gounod’s Ave Maria with legendary French pop music star and ethnic Armenian Charles Aznavour.
He was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales. They raised money for the elimination of land mines worldwide.
In 1998, he was appointed the United Nations Messenger of Peace, using his fame to raise awareness of UN issues, including the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS, child rights, urban slums and poverty.
In 1999, Pavarotti performed a charity benefit concert in Beirut, to mark Lebanon’s re-emergence on the world stage after a brutal 15-year civil war. The largest concert held in Beirut since the end of the war, it was attended by 20,000 people who travelled from countries as distant as Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. In 1999 he also hosted a charity benefit concert to build a school in Guatemala, for Guatemalan civil war orphans. It was named after him Centro Educativo Pavarotti. Now the foundation of Nobel prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum is running the school.
In 2001, Pavarotti received the Nansen Medal from the UN High Commission for Refugees for his efforts raising money on behalf of refugees worldwide. Through benefit concerts and volunteer work, he has raised more than any other individual. Also in 2001, Pavarotti was chosen one of that year’s five recipients by the President and First Lady as an honoree for their lifetime achievements in the arts at the White House, followed by the Kennedy Center; the Kennedy Center Honors, He was surprised by the appearance of Secretary-General of the United Nations and that year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan, who lauded him for his contribution to humankind. Six months prior, Pavarotti had held a large charity concert for Afghan refugees, particularly children in his home town of Modena, Italy.
Other honours he received include the “Freedom of London Award” and The Red Cross “Award for Services to Humanity”, for his work in raising money for that organisation, and the 1998 “MusiCares Person of the Year”, given to humanitarian heroes by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.
He won 7 Grammy Awards and was nominated for 5 more (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What was not generally known was that Pavarotti in his later years became a camper-van enthusiast.
He had a van adapted to his own specifications, which subsequently was often seen overnight parked near some of the world’s best opera houses. After his death, the Japanese manufacturer named the flagship model of a new camper van series after him. We’ve all heard of the ‘Nissan Dorma’.
Second, a Song:
“Nessun dorma” (Italian: [nesˌsun ˈdɔrma]; English: “Let no one sleep”) is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot (text by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni) and one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera. It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot. Any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded. In the aria, Calaf expresses his triumphant assurance that he will win the princess.
Although “Nessun Dorma” had long been a staple of operatic recitals, Luciano Pavarotti popularised the piece beyond the opera world in the 1990s following his performance of it for the 1990 World Cup, which captivated a global audience. Both Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo released singles of the aria, with Pavarotti’s reaching number 2 in the UK, and it appeared on the best selling classical album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert. The Three Tenors, which includes José Carreras, performed the aria at three subsequent World Cup Finals, in 1994 in Los Angeles, 1998 in Paris, and 2002 in Yokohama. Since 1990, many crossover artists have performed and recorded it. The aria has been sung often in movies and on television (per Wikipedia).
Here is Luciano Pavarotti performing Nessun Dorma live in Paris, France. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail.” – Luciano Pavarotti
Have a great day!
© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky