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Sunday, 29 November, 2020

The Maestro has Left the Stage

Date: 15 September, 2007

By: Chief

Imageuciano Pavarotti, without doubt the greatest singer of the 20th century and, arguably at this point in time, the greatest singer in human history has died of pancreatic cancer and its complications at his home in Modena, Italy at 5:00am local time 06 September, 2007.

In the course of history few people have been able to peacefully change the world. Pavarotti was one of those who could and did. In this he is joined by a very small and select group of people such as Da Vinci, Rafael, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Mozart and Beethoven. They are the ones which come to my mind. I would say he is in good company.

Maestro Pavarotti could sing — anything and sing it beautifully. Though he was primarily an operatic tenor, who was second to none, he was just as comfortable singing popular music as he was singing the role of Mario Cavaradossi (a painter) in Puccini's opera Tosca.

More importantly however, was that undefinable 'something else' that only he possessed. It was, to be sure, somewhat mystical. Whether the Maestro was performing an opera, singing in a Three Tenors concert or buying a loaf of bread from a local bakery there was always that 'something else' (an aura perhaps?) which surrounded him, which drew him to people and drew people to him. It was that 'something else' which made him singularly great.

To give you an example of the Maestro's voice and that 'something else' in action it was he singing his signature song, Puccini's Nessun Dorma, that made European football 'okay' or socially acceptable again. In a story by The Telegraph (a UK newspaper) on 07 September, 2007, discussing football events leading up to the 1990 world cup the headline read "Nessun Dorma put football back on map." Quoting The Telegraph:

"As the tournament progressed, it became clear the BBC had a phenomenon on their hands. It may be hard to believe in this age of wags and multi-millionaires, but when Italia 90 got under way football was a pariah sport in this country.

"The Heysel disaster only five years before was still raw in the memory; this was a business loathed by politicians, spurned by the middle classes, watched seemingly only by yobs.

"Three weeks later, all had begun to change. And it was Pavarotti, unwittingly, who helped effect that change with his soaring, swooping noise, the incredible tenor arc concluding in that implausibly high trio if 'vinceros'."

I would not say "unwittingly." I would say, as I have already said, it was not just his voice but that 'something else' which made all the difference.

As an aside just what exactly is a yob? I have no clue. Oh well, leave it to the Brits to be incapable of speaking proper English.

I really do not care what anyone else listens to or likes. It is not my business. But everyone does have an opinion of their favorite singer's high point during their career. So it is with me and the Maestro.

The high point of the Maestro's 40 plus year career, to me anyway, was, believe or not, a collaborative one. And it was breath taking. It was the unrehearsed encore of Nessun Dorma by the Three Tenors during the 1990 concert in Caracalla, Rome, Italy. When I say unrehearsed I mean it. You could see (DVD) Josep Carreras, Placido Domingo and Pavarotti talking to each other and pointing at each other in order to figure out who would sing what. Then there was Maestro Zubin Mehta, the conductor, miming to the two orchestras (Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Orchestra del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma) what song the tenors were about to sing.

The music started. The crowd of over 6,000 people were on their feet, yet there was nary a sound from the crowd. Mehta commenced the orchestral prelude. Then the singing began. Domingo led off. It was magnificent. Domingo then passed flawlessly to Carreras. Once again, magnificent. Carreras passed perfectly to Pavarotti. Beautiful. Pavarotti passed back to Carreras. Honey to the ears. Then it was the orchestral interlude and the tenors were, once again, talking and pointing, ironing out the last half of the song. Domingo started. Wonderful. Domingo passes off to Carreras. Carreras sings the initial "All'alba vincero!" Pavarotti then sings a higher "vincero!" Then all three in absolutely perfect pitch and harmony sing the final "vincero!" The orchestras finish and Mehta cuts them. Pandemonium erupts from the crowd. Amazing. Indeed, unbelievable.

It was quite literally breath taking. The crowd felt it. The orchestras felt it. The tenors felt it. Mehta felt it (he was jumping up and down while conducting). And the 1.5 billion people watching the concert on television felt it. My wife and I felt it (watching the DVD). It was something I shall never forget.

I cannot emphasize enough just how tricky Nessun Dorma is to sing. Or how magnificently the tenors sang it. I'll tell you this — it is most certainly worth the price of the 1990 concert DVD just to hear (and watch the performance of) that one song. It is absolutely worth it. Truth be told, the entire concert is stunning and worth the price of the DVD. Get it.

The Maestro also had a rather fun or mischievous side. Bono more aptly called it his "ballsy side." I can think of no more appropriate example of this than the first encore song, Verdi's "La Donna e Mobile," from the 1994 Three Tenors concert. I must ask you to direct your eyes and far importantly your ears to the DVD. Listen carefully to Pavarotti sing the last verse. Then look at the reactions of both Carreras and Domingo. If you missed what he sang, don't feel bad. I missed as well the first few dozen times I watched it (in fact it was my wife who caught it and pointed it out to me). But once you catch it — then you will know exactly what Bono meant. It was truly "ballsy." It is also incredibly funny.

The 1994 DVD is also worth purchasing, believe me. In fact they all are.

Upon learning of Pavarotti's death many of his friends and colleagues including Carreras, Domingo, Bocelli and Bono made heart felt statements. But I think Zubin Mehta summed it up best (quoting the BBC):

" 'The whole world will be listening today to his voice on every radio and television station'.

" 'And that will continue. And that is his legacy. He will never stop'."

Maestro Mehta is quite correct.

What Maestro Pavarotti left us was simply beauty in song. One need not like opera to appreciate beauty in song. One need not understand the words (I most certainly don't) to appreciate beauty in song. The fact of the matter is that Pavarotti left us this gift. It is now up to us to fully appreciate it and pass it along to others for their enjoyment.

So do not despair people. For while it is true the Maestro has left our Earthly stage it is true-er still to say that he has merely returned to where everything starts — the limitless universe. And it is on that stage where we shall find him. Singing with all his might, in all his majesty, in all his glory and fun.

"All'alba vincero" Maestro. Indeed, vincero.

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