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My Pavarotti Memories: The People’s Tenor

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Can it be that there’s no one around today at ArtsJournal to blog a personal appreciation of Luciano Pavarotti, the People’s Tenor?
It looks like this necessary task, on the occasion of his death, has fallen to this visual arts blogger, who moonlights as an operaphile.
I saw Pavarotti at both ends of his career: I resonated with his nine perfect high C’s in 1972 when he achieved instant international fame in Donizetti‘s “La Fille du Régiment” at the Metropolitan Opera, opposite superstar Joan Sutherland. Then in 1996, expecting much less, I marveled at how much of his voice and artistry were still intact in the last performance of his that I attended—revisiting one of his signature roles, Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier,” also at the Met. Judging from reviews he had by then been receiving, this must have been one of his better late-career nights. It was good enough to evoke all that I had loved in his past artistry.
What I most appreciated about Pavarotti in his days as “King of the High C’s” was that you never had a moment’s worry about his nailing his notes; you just sat back and luxuriated in the reliable gorgeousness of his sound and in his idiomatically native understanding of how Italian opera should be sung. There was nothing studied about him. He was a force of nature.
As Anthony Tommasini said today in his NY Times tribute:
For intelligence, discipline, breadth of repertory, musicianship, interpretive depth and virile vocalism, Mr. Pavarotti was outclassed by his Three Tenors sidekick and chief rival, Plácido Domingo. But for sheer Italianate tenorial beauty, Mr. Pavarotti was hard to top.
“Impossible to top,” I’d say.

an ArtsJournal blog