Luciano Pavarotti, 71, died at 5 a.m. this morning, Italian time. His latest recording of sacred songs is scheduled for release in early 2008.
He earned the title of “King of the High C’s” when he hit nine high C’s in quick succession at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1972 during performances of “Ah! Mes Amis” in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment.”
In his own words, here are a few memories and thoughts of his life.
“When I was born, my mother was under 20, my grandmother 38, my great grandmother 56. They had many sisters. I have three daughters with my first wife and one with my wife, Nicoletta. I have had many secretaries in the past, around 10 to 15, all women. I was born with women all around. This is perhaps why you see me so happy. They protect me so that when I am on stage, I only have to think about my singing.”
“Our family had very little, but I couldn’t imagine one could have any more,” Pavarotti said. He was the son of a baker.
“In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror.”
“Whenever I went to visit him (Arrigo Pola, his music teacher whom he continued to visit right up to Pola’s death), I took a lesson. He was a very significant teacher for me. I give him the impression that I still need him — and it was true. Not that I need to study with him, but that I need him to hear me and tell me, yes, it’s good like that or not like that. In fact, I’m doing exactly what I did the first day I met my teacher. Nothing has changed, not one comma.”
“You should ask one of my colleagues if I am lazy. I make them work like pigs.”
“I always want to be serious, a professional person. And if you ask me what I want to do now, it is the same thing. My goal is to be remembered as a very serious professional singer who has begun his career in the world of the opera; sings, let’s say, 25 years in the opera house; and for the last 15 years of his life, goes a little outside the world of opera to meet other people — especially with the television, who is a great sister in publicizing everything, including music.”
Speaking of his yo-yo dieting with a reported high of 396 pounds (180 kilograms) in 1978, “Maybe this time I’ll really do it and keep it up.”
“In act II of Tosca, sitting on a little classic baroque chair during rehearsal, I told the stage director that I couldn’t sit there, it will explode. He said ‘no, don’t worry I will reinforce it with iron.’ During rehearsal Tosca sang close to me while I was sitting on the chair. She put her hand on my leg, it was fine. On the night of the performance, she was more exuberant, and sat on me. They are still looking for the chair. And that was the premiere.”
“For many years I always dream that I am in my dressing room, in underpants and the orchestra begins to play. And I wake with a jump. Once in the Paris opera, I prepared for an 8 p.m. start, but at 7 p.m., the opera began … and I was in my underpants. It was an incredible night.”
“I’m a very lucky man. I’m not selling anything but music.”
“I take it day by day, I never make plans. I do what is demanded of me. … If it comes to me and I like it, I go. I have been singing for 41 years, and for the last 10, I have
been making music outside opera. Now I’m able to take it to people who never knew this music existed. We had a concert in China and millions got to watch it. We cannot do that in an opera house. Some people are afraid of opera music. But once they know, they are not afraid anymore.”
“The word commercial is exactly what we want. We’ve reached 1.5 billion people with opera (with the Three Tenors concerts). If you want to use the word commercial, or something more derogatory, we don’t care. Use whatever you want.”
“First of all, I never sang for legend. I sang for the composer first of all. Secondly, if there is a legend, the Three Tenors concerts make the legend more.”
“When I go on stage by myself, I try to be good. When I go on stage with the tenors, I try to be better!”
“Some say the word ‘pop’ is a derogatory word to say ‘not important’ — I do not accept that. If the word ‘classic’ is the word to say ‘boring,’ I do not accept. There is good and bad music.”
“I want to give something back to the younger generation. Teaching I think is the most difficult thing; teaching is more difficult than singing. Why? Because you have to transfer a thought from your brain to the brain of the other person and the throat of the other person. I want to teach people who really are good.”
“I won’t give the twins anything more than I gave my three daughters. Of course, back then, my career was in full swing. This time I will have more time to devote to my children.” (A baby boy died during childbirth, the girl, Alice survived.)
“Alice was born during the making of this record (Ti Adoro). She has inspired me so much. I dedicate this record to her.”
“Now I only need God’s help — and it really seems to me that he is giving it to me.”
“I cannot live being thought not a good person.”
“I was a fortunate and happy man. After that, this blow arrived (pancreatic cancer). And now I am paying the penalty for this fortune and happiness.”
Pavarotti recordings can be found here.