Luciano Pavarotti, the outsized Italian tenor generally regarded as the finest operatic voice of his generation, has passed away at the age of 71. Best known by the general audience as the fattest guy in the Three Tenors, Pavarotti had a storied career which saw him achieve almost every measure of operatic success. He also starred in one the most unintentionally funny movies we've ever seen, 1982's Yes, Giorgio, and performed with Bono, Sting, and Elton John, which must have sucked. Pavarotti had a special relationship with audiences at the Metropolitan Opera.
Says the Times:
Mr. Pavarotti remained a darling of Met audiences until his retirement from that company's roster in 2004, an occasion celebrated with a string of "Tosca" performances. At the last of them, on March 13, 2004, he received a 15-minute standing ovation and 10 curtain calls. All told, he sang 379 performances at the Met, of which 357 were in fully staged opera productions. In the late 1960s and 70s, when Mr. Pavarotti was at his best, he possessed a sound remarkable for its ability to penetrate large spaces easily. Yet he was able to encase that powerful sound in elegant, brilliant colors. His recordings of the Donizetti repertory are still models of natural grace and pristine sound. The clear Italian diction and his understanding of the emotional power of words in music were exemplary.
We asked New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross to add a few words about the man and his legacy. "Two things may be overlooked in the ubiquitous commemorations of Pavarotti," noted Ross. "One is that in his youth he was a dangerously anorexic but really quite comely Italian underwear model, with killer abs. The other is that he was surprisingly convincing in his least-known crossover project, Pavarotti Sings the Songs of Minor Threat."
What can we say? The man was multifaceted. On a strictly personal note, we think his singing on Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle approaches divinity. Anyway, a life well lived, and, as former Met tyrant Joe Volpe might say, "a hell of a way to end this beautiful career."