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Luciano Pavarotti – King of the High C’s

Luciano Pavarotti

“Music making is the most joyful activity possible, the most perfect expression of any emotion.”  

Luciano Pavarotti

One autumn day in 1988, my father asked if I had any plans for a certain weekend.  No, I replied.  Perfect, he said. Be ready to leave for a weekend trip, at 8 am on Friday morning.  Make sure your passport is valid.  And pack a formal cocktail dress…..

I turned to look at him inquisitively, and he said, “Because the first time a girl travels to New York City, it should be with her father.”

I remember that we spent an unbelievable autumn weekend in NYC, exploring and enjoying all of the unique sights and sounds.  During an early dinner on the Saturday, my dad said, ‘Please be ready for an evening out at 8 pm.” When the cab finally dropped us off, I realized that we were standing in front of the Met Opera House, with my Dad handing me a ticket to a concert by Luciano Pavarotti.

The Met Opera

While I had listened to his music many times, I was simply not prepared for the raw power that he was able to project.  This particular concert was not an operatic performance, but rather that of Pavarotti singing while accompanied not by an orchestra, but simply a piano.  Regardless, the emotional force of his performance moved the crowd to burst into applause repeatedly, in the middle of several songs.  By the end of the evening, the enthusiastic crowd would not let him leave.  His traditional final encore of ‘Nessun Dorma’ brought the crowd to its feet yet again.

Video:  Luciano Pavarotti Recital – Nessun Dorma/Metropolitan Opera/New York

I too, was brought to my feet, and as I clapped until my hands hurt, I was a little stunned to discover that I was weeping….not an ugly cry, but just a rapturous weeping, with tears streaming down my face.

While Nessun Dorma was Luciano’s traditional encore piece, it is worth enjoying when Pavarotti is backed by an orchestra, as he is here in a performance at Madison Square Garden:

However, the absolutely most powerful version was shot for the 1982 movie ‘Yes, Giorgio’ in which Pavarotti played the title character of Giorgio Fini:

Pavarotti was so well known for this aria by Puccini, that at his funeral in Modena, Italy, Andrea Bocceli dedicated the aria to him, and performed it live, while being broadcast all over world by CNN.

During a recent visit to Modena, Italy, I dragged my husband, Alvis along with me to tour the country estate/museum of Luciano.  Pavarotti lived in this house until the end of his days in 2009.

As we drove through the Italian countryside, just outside of Modena, we came upon a narrow country lane, with a sign pointing to the ‘Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti’.

Sign of Pavarotti museum

During the self-guided, audio tour, it was explained that Luciano carried a white handkerchief when performing not only to mop his brow, but  also to alleviate his nerves, and to make his hand gestures appear more natural.

Pavarotti country estateHis country home that has been converted into a museum.


Luciano piano

“If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them.”   Luciano Pavarotti

The main level of the villa houses Pavarotti’s piano, where he not only practised, but also gave singing lessons, for free, to kids in the Modena area.

Pavarotti's tuxedo

One of the Maestro’s tuxedos.

Luciano's flowered shirts

This image (above) reminds me of my second Pavarotti experience.  I was in Europe, taking a flight to Vienna.  To get to my coach seat, I had to pass through the first class cabin, where Pavarotti was standing and chatting with someone in his entourage.  While he sat in first class, his whole entourage was relegated to coach!  He was wearing a large floral shirt, with the Fedora style hat, and a scarf wrapped around his neck.  As I passed by, I remember thinking that I was almost the same height as him, and that that somehow, could not be possible.

Fedora hats


“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”  Luciano Pavarotti

Pavarotti's Loft

By and far, the most interesting part of the museum was the loft upstairs.  It is filled to the brim with photos, personal letters, and other personal memorabilia.

Award cabinet

A display cabinet showcasing many of Pavarotti’s accolades and awards.


A photo collage depicting the Maestro meeting with a wide and varied plethora of musicians, actors, politicians etc.

Quote 1

While Pavarotti was widely known as the most accomplished tenor of his era, he himself, was compelled to bring opera music to the masses.  Widely criticized for what some considered the ‘commercialization’ of opera, Luciano created “The Three Tenors’ and toured extensively  to great critical  acclaim.  The crowds could not get enough of them.

Three Tenors

In the link below, The 3 Tenors, Live in LA, 1994, Pavarotti’s bon vivant personality is on display:

During a recent trip to Milan and a tour of Teatro La Scala, my friends and I were treated to watching Placido Domingo practice.

One of the Three Tenors

And later in the day, we ran into him strolling to his hotel from La Scala.

Quote 2

The Loft also showcased one wall that housed a large screen showing video vignettes of Pavarotti’s duets and collaborations.  Although each floor of the house played his music, this video wall was the most compelling.

In a continued effort to promote opera to all, Luciano also performed many duets or collaborations with popular musicians of the day, for example:  Zucchero, Bono, Jon Bon Jovi and countless others.  These collaborations delighted the crowds at the many humanitarian aid concerts that Pavarotti organized to benefit the children of war. These collaborations served to make fans of the younger generations.

In the link below, Luciano collaborates with Bryan Adams singing ‘O Sole Mio’ during a Pavarotti and Friends concert in Modena, Italy, September 1994.

Standing in Luciano’s house, watching this charming video of two musicians singing this duet, I found myself rooting for Bryan Adams to please please please hit the high notes.  Then I noticed that maybe Luciano was also kinda rooting for Bryan to hit the notes.  

Please check out this great collaboration between Luciano, Brian Eno, Meatloaf, Zucchero, Michael Bolton and others, at the 1996 “Pavarotti and Friends” concert, Modena, Italy.  I have newfound respect for Michael Bolton…

Below – Pavarotti’s duet with Bono.  As much as I am an enormous U2 fan, perhaps Bono should leave the heavy lifting to the professionals……

The last video that I watched was this rare collaboration  – Pavarotti, Zucchero and Bocelli.  Misery has never sounded this good…

As I stood against the railing of the loft in Luciano’s house, I noticed that almost all of the other guests touring this museum stood rooted to the spot, as I was, mesmerized by the music.   As my soul flew on the wings of the high notes of  Pavarotti and Bocelli, I realized that I was silently weeping.

Which duet/collaboration is your favourite?

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“Some say the word ‘pop’ is a derogatory word to say ‘not important’ – I do not accept that. If the word ‘classic’ is the word to say ‘boring,’ I do not accept. There is good and bad music.”  Luciano Pavarotti


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