Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti


• 1935 2007

Editor's Choice

Transcending the boundaries of classical and popular music, Luciano Pavarotti was an operatic legend. Whether performing in an opera house or a stadium, his phenomenal talent and commanding stage presence endeared him to audiences all around the world. Born in 1935 to a working-class family in Italy, the young Pavarotti sang in a church choir and drew inspiration from his father's record collection. Having initially nursed dreams of becoming a professional footballer, his family's situation - exacerbated during WWII - informed decisions about his education and career trajectory. His mother persuaded him to train as a teacher, and he subsequently taught in a junior school for several years. Between teaching and a brief spell selling insurance, Pavarotti supported himself during his musical studies and early singing career. His first big break came in 1963, when Joan Sutherland, seeking a tall, imposing tenor, requested that he accompany her on tour in Australia. With her mentoring and support, Pavarotti developed his impressive breathing technique and made his American debut opposite Sutherland in a 1965 production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Having performed at the world's greatest opera houses, Pavarotti recorded a series of classical crossover and popular albums and gained worldwide adulation with his performances at the 1990 World Cup and subsequent '3 Tenors' projects with José Carreras and Placido Domingo. This album, recorded in 1987, features a selection of songs and arias, showcasing his fantastic technique and remarkable range. From Leoncavallo to Bixio, there's something here for fans of all stripes. Recorded in the Piazza Grande of his home city of Modena, it was the recipient of 1988's Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Concluding with a stunning rendition of Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma' this release is a joyous reminder of Luciano Pavarotti's vocal prowess and universal appeal.


One of the most successful and admired opera singers of all time, Luciano Pavarotti was king among tenors from the late 1960s through the 1990s. His voice was noted for its exciting upper register, and tailor-made for the operas of Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti, and Puccini, and as it darkened slightly over the years, for the verismo composers as well. His vocal longevity, which kept him singing youthfully well into his sixties, and still beautifully after that, was a credit to his commanding technique and artistry, and remarkable considering his nearly 40 years of performing.

Pavarotti's father was a baker, and his mother worked in a cigar factory. As a boy, he sang alto in the cathedral choir, and when his voice changed he joined the Modena city choir. He had brief careers as a schoolteacher and an insurance agent; during that time, his major extracurricular activity was not music but soccer, and his play made him a local star. However, increased involvement in the choir (which took prizes in international competitions) led him to pursue vocal studies, and he eventually settled on singing as his aspiration.

Pavarotti studied voice with Arrigo Polo in Modena, then with Ettore Campogalliani in Mantua. His operatic debut was as Rodolfo in La Bohème in Reggio Emilia (April 19, 1961), and soon increasing success led to a debut in Amsterdam on January 18, 1963, as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor. After singing the same role with Joan Sutherland in Miami in 1965, he was engaged to travel with her in the Sutherland Williamson International Grand Opera Company, touring Australia. In 1966 he appeared at Covent Garden as Tonio in La fille du régiment, where his seemingly effortless handling of the nine successive high Cs in the aria "Pour mon âme" sent his career into high orbit. He repeated the feat at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972, and for more than two decades after that he was a fixture on the operatic scene, appearing in nearly every major European and American house, and even China, where he performed Puccini's La bohème in the 1980s.

Pavarotti appeared in the first "Live from the Met" broadcast on the PBS network and was the most consistent draw on that series for years. His outstanding catalogue of recordings on the London (Decca) record label preserves nearly every role he ever performed and is hard to match for its quality and scope. His charity work included AIDS benefit concerts and world hunger gala events, as well as his "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts to benefit children, especially in the former Yugoslav states. He also founded a quadrennial contest to identify talented young singers and boost their careers. And, as one of the "Three Tenors," he brought operatic singing to a wider popular audience than previously might have been thought possible. In 2003 he released his first solo crossover CD, Ti adoro. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, yet remained positive and hopeful of still being able to record and perform until his death.