Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007

Luciano Pavarotti, operatic superstar and the greatest tenor of his generation, has died:

Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian singer whose ringing, pristine sound set a standard for operatic tenors of the postwar era, died early this morning at his home in Modena, in northern Italy. He was 71.

His death was announced by his manager, Terri Robson. The cause was pancreatic cancer. In July 2006 he underwent surgery for the cancer in New York and had made no public appearances since then. He was hospitalized again this summer and released on Aug. 25.

“The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life,” said an e-mail statement that his manager sent to The Associated Press. “In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness.”

Like Enrico Caruso and Jenny Lind before him, Mr. Pavarotti extended his presence far beyond the limits of Italian opera. He became a titan of pop culture. Millions saw him on television and found in his expansive personality, childlike charm and generous figure a link to an art form with which many had only a glancing familiarity.

He made his debut singing Rodolfo in La Boheme 46 years ago and IMO his performances contributed to the omnipresence of verismo operas in the repertory. He is one of only three operatic tenors to achieve superstardom in the United States: Caruso, Mario Lanza, and Pavarotti.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, critic John von Rhein notes:

Mr. Pavarotti was the first contemporary opera star to exploit a well-oiled publicity machine; the first to give concerts in stadiums, parks and other mass-audience venues; the first to bridge the worlds of classical, popular and crossover music with equal success, breaking all sales records for a classical recording artist.

As a consequence of last minute cancellations and, I think, some less than favorable reviews, Sig. Pavarotti had a well publicized feud with Chicago Lyric Opera which culminated in his being fired from the company. John von Rhein continues:

During the 1970s and ’80s Mr. Pavarotti favored Lyric Opera of Chicago audiences with most of the roles central to his repertory and gave numerous concerts in the area. But his history of persistent cancellations at the Lyric forced the company to break relations with him in a spectacular firing that made headlines around the world.

I first began attending Lyric Opera just as that feud was coming to a head. I was fortunate enough to catch a few of his last performances with Lyric in Chicago. He really did have a glorious voice.

His was a larger than life personality and an enormous, instinctive talent. He probably did as much to bring new audiences to opera as anyone in the last quarter century. His many fans and his many recordings ensure that his influence will continue to be felt for a long, long time.


A lyrical eulogy for Pavarotti from Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

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