Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pavarotti: Popularizer and Evangelist

In a New York Times article (8 September 2007), author and music critic, David Hajdu, has given a marvelous tribute to Luciano Pavarotti. Among other things he has credited Pavarotti with being a popularizer of his genre to the thousands around the world who would never go to the opera. In this way he fulfilled an evangelical role for his brand of music. Here is Hajdu’s opening story and initial reflections, as a taster:

ON Sept. 13, 1994, Luciano Pavarotti and Bryan Adams stood side by side before a symphony orchestra assembled on a vast outdoor stage in Modena, Italy, Mr. Pavarotti’s hometown, and they performed a duet of “O Sole Mio.” Mr. Pavarotti, beaming, sang the hoary old heart-stopper beautifully, almost as if he had not done it several jillion times before. Mr. Adams croaked and giggled and clutched the microphone in palpable terror. The performance, which was televised internationally and later released on video, survives on YouTube. Watching it now, in the wake of Mr. Pavarotti’s death from pancreatic cancer, one can only marvel at the incongruity of the scene and wonder what in the world was that rock star doing in the company of that guy Adams?

Luciano Pavarotti was, among many things — perhaps above all — a rock star, regardless of the fact that the music he sang happened to be opera or, on occasion, folk or popular music in the operatic mode. To recognize this is not to deny his profound gifts as an artist or to diminish his importance as the most beloved tenor of the postwar era. He was blessed with a stunningly gorgeous voice, pure yet unmistakable, which he employed with ardor in the service of beauty and joy. He brought countless listeners, including this one, to rapture.

In addition, as waves of encomiums in recent days have reminded us, his enormous appeal gave Mr. Pavarotti an evangelical dimension. More than anyone since Enrico Caruso, we are repeatedly told, Mr. Pavarotti brought opera to the masses. This is true, but not the whole truth: more than anything, what Mr. Pavarotti did was bring mass culture — particularly the sensibility of the rock ’n’ roll age — to the world of opera.

The full article can be read at:

David Hajdu, Tenor of the Times New York Times, 8 September 2008.

Image: Luciano Pavarotti.