Thursday, September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

As the financial markets swirl on -- all journey and no destination -- the loss of Luciano Pavarotti is an event of generational significance.

100 years ago, the world was taken by storm by Enrico Caruso. It's important to grasp that Caruso created the modern recording industry. The most popular singer in any genre for over 20 years, Caruso made nearly 300 recordings by 1920, and drove the adoption and early success of 78 rpm technology. If you owned a Victrola, you owned a Caruso 78. Caruso was deservingly awarded a posthumous Grammy in 1987.

But then came Pavarotti.

As I entered college in 1977 to study music, Pavarotti was at his peak. I knew little opera at the time, and got my primer sitting in my dorm room with friends listening to him famously nail the 9 high C's in Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fĂȘte! from Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment". Pavarotti had a titanium voice -- paradoxically both light and strong. Ah! mes amis was an "a-ha" moment for me, one that sparked a life-long love of opera. I would go on to compose an opera for my dissertation, and have started a second opera this past summer.

By the time of Pavarotti's reign in the 1970's, music had become so stylistically fragmented that it's difficult for many to understand his significance. Not only did he have a twice-in-a-century voice, one of Pavarotti's greatest contributions was that he eagerly embraced popular music. This was very controversial in the stodgy music world, but Pavarotti knew that opera originally WAS popular music. He saw this connection, and reminded us that music is as much a social experience as it is a musical one.

The 20th century saw two of the greatest operatic tenors in history, and it is a cherished thought to know that I was there for one of them.

Mi mancherai.



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Pavarotti Nessun Dorma

Pavarotti with Queen

Pavarotti with James Brown

Pavarotti with Barry White