Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


September 6, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti died at age 71 just a few hours ago. As someone who at one time studied to be an opera singer, I’ve enjoyed listening to his recordings for many, many hours.

For me, the 20th century had three great voices: Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Luciano Pavarotti. Picking this trio may seem like a strange choice because they are three very different singers, but the three shared an incomparable quality.

In hearing any of the three sing, I cannot help but smile and feel glad to be alive. The three had an exuberance — a joie de vivre that is hard to find even among the best performers.

Many opera aficionados would claim that other tenors were better singers or musicians. During the 80’s when I was in music school it was perhaps thought a bit simple to prefer Pavarotti to, say, Placido Domingo. But as beautiful as Domingo’s voice was, and his first-rate musicality notwithstanding, there was a kind of unaffected brilliance to Pavarotti’s voice that to my ears and sensibilities surpassed all other tenors.

His singing was exciting and seemingly effortless — and ever youthful. That was his art.

There was a time in my life when I listened to his La Boheme with Mirella Freni, probably the most lush recording of Puccini’s masterpiece, almost every day. And though I’ve owned four recordings of this opera, and have seen it performed three times at the Metropolitan Opera, no performance produces for me the goose bumps that this one does.

Opera may be an acquired taste in this day and age, but Pavarotti’s contribution to spreading a love for it surpassed anyone of his generation. To enjoy opera is to have your heart opened to the beauty of this world, and of this life. And for a depth of feeling and appreciation of beauty that I might not have otherwise, I have to thank that man.