- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

Legendary Italian opera star and soloist Luciano Pavarotti this year becomes the second of the world-famous Three Tenors to be named a Kennedy Center Honoree.
Called by Kennedy Center Chairman James A. Johnson "a singer whose unique voice has attracted new fans to opera in the United States and throughout the world," Mr. Pavarotti joins Washington Opera Artistic Director Placido Domingo honored in 2000 in being accorded one of the nation's highest honors for performing artists.
"I received the news of this prize with great pleasure, particularly in these difficult conditions," says Mr. Pavarotti, referring to the recent terrorists attacks on Washington and New York. Does it concern him to travel to Washington during these trying times? "I have no concerns, none at all," he says. "We cannot allow such things to stop us."
No stranger to wartime, Mr. Pavarotti believes that artists must play an important role in helping people get on with their lives, particularly when facing great adversity and tragedy. "I am a son of the world," he says. "We must consider this like a war, and we have to help people to go on in these times. We cannot be afraid. It is impossible."
Mr. Pavarotti was born Oct. 12, 1935, in Modena, Italy. He grew up in near-poverty in war-ravaged Italy, as his father struggled to make ends meet first as a soldier and later as a baker. In this difficult environment, music was both a solace and a passion for the elder Pavarotti, who adored opera and was a talented tenor in his own right. He was, in fact, a prominent member of Modena's Corale Rossini, one of Italy's amateur vocal groups famed to this day for the professional quality of its singing. Soon, young Luciano was tagging along with him to the corale's rehearsals. "My father is a tenor, I'm a tenorino," he would say.
Although singing became his first love, Luciano needed a profession and was sent to a teachers college with the aim of becoming a teacher or a gym instructor. But the family decided that his talent as a singer was too great to ignore, and he undertook more serious vocal studies first under Arrigo Pola, and later with Ettore Campogalliani. Rare among modern opera singers, he never was formally trained in the academy.
Mr. Pavarotti achieved international attention while touring in Wales in 1955 with the Corale Rossini. More important, however, was his winning of the Achille Peri prize for singing in 1961, which led to his debut that year in the role of Rudolfo in Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" with the Teatro Municipale of Reggio Emilia. It was to become one of his signature roles.
In 1965, Mr. Pavarotti made his formal debut at London's Covent Garden in Vicenzo Bellini's "La Sonnambula," after having impressed the company as a last-minute fill-in in a 1963 performance of "La Boheme." He also made his debut at La Scala in Milan, Italy, and traveled to Miami, where he sang with star soprano Joan Sutherland in Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor." In 1966, he electrified Covent Garden audiences in a performance of Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment." Mr. Pavarotti sang the nine consecutive high C's in the work's famous aria "Pour Mon Ame" originally intended to be sung in falsetto in his actual tenor voice, an operatic first.
Mr. Pavarotti debuted with New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1968, and soon evolved into one of the most popular opera singers in history, with sold-out performances at venues around the world and recordings that generated brisk sales. He was fast becoming renowned for his huge, room-filling voice, his clear enunciation and his piercing, breathtaking high notes. He was also noted for his perpetually expanding repertoire, which included much of works by Giuseppe Verdi and Puccini in addition to those of Donizetti and Bellini.
Mr. Pavarotti and fabled conductor Herbert von Karajan formed a lasting friendship during these years. This led to the tenor recording Puccini's "La Boheme" and "Madama Butterfly," and Verdi's "Luisa Miller" with the conductor from 1973 to 1975, with the former being awarded the prestigious Italian record critics' award. He also found numerous occasions to sing with his father, who continued to be a highly regarded singer in his own right.
It was during this period that Mr. Pavarotti became a celebrated figure outside the opera house, singing as a recitalist and giving open-air concerts in San Francisco (1975) and at Cleveland's Blossom Music Center (1977) that attracted huge crowds. A Central Park performance of Verdi's "Rigoletto" in 1980 was witnessed by more than 200,000 old and new Pavarotti fans.
His celebrity rose to new heights in 1990 when Mr. Pavarotti became part of the phenomenon known as the Three Tenors, joining Spanish tenors Mr. Domingo and Jose Carreras for a televised concert in Rome in conjunction with the World Cup that mixed opera classics with popular tunes. The resulting live-concert album became an international sensation, rising to the top of the music charts in America and Europe and winning a Grammy Award.
The trio burnished its success with a follow-on concert and album in 1994, and the Three Tenor recordings became the best-selling classical music albums of all time. Although highbrows are quick to criticize the Three Tenors' success, the group's popularity has been a significant positive force in the recent and surprisingly strong revival of grand opera as a popular performing art form, particularly among younger listeners.
Mr. Pavarotti's ever-increasing fame and ease with large crowds also made him a natural for creating crossover recordings in the 1990s with pop singers such as Canada's Bryan Adams, England's Sting and Irish troupe U2's lead singer, Bono. The success of these endeavors led to the first of many "Pavarotti & Friends" concerts in Modena, annual open-air affairs featuring famous pop and rock stars and designed to raise funds for humanitarian organizations worldwide.
Mr. Pavarotti's breakneck pace has slowed somewhat in recent years, but he still maintains a brisk schedule of recording sessions and personal appearances. After receiving his Kennedy Center award, "I plan to go home to celebrate the holidays with my family and to sing a concert in Italy for a friend of mine," he says. "I will also be recording an album of pop songs and will sing in 'Tosca' next year at Covent Garden."
As for further appearances of the Three Tenors, Mr. Pavarotti is a little less definite. "I don't know right now," he says, "but there is talk of us reuniting in a concert in Tokyo.
"For us," he says with a laugh, "this might seem like a World Cup championship."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide