Memories of Pavarotti.


So I’m really not an opera fan. And I would go so far as to say that I actively disliked his various “crossover” projects like the Three Tenors, or concerts with artists like Sting and Elton John. But I have to say that when I woke up this morning and heard that Luciano Pavarotti had died, I felt a little…sad.

Like Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti has always been a presence in my New York “experience.” I come from a long line of Brooklyn-born Italian Americans, to whom… Well, I guess I can end that sentence right there, can’t I? I come from a long line of Brooklyn-born Italian Americans. There you have it.

But without a doubt, the most passionate lover of all things Pavarotti in my life was always my maternal grandmother–at this point my soul surviving grandparent. And though none of us ever really shared her passion, we totally enabled it, buying her cassette tapes, then CDs, videos, opera tickets, you name it. I still remember the day, in either late 1997 or early 1998, when my mom took her to the Met to finally see her idol live, in person. I couldn’t believe it had taken that long–that my grandmother had fostered such a lifelong adoration of this man, and had never had the opportunity to see him live.

When she finally did, it was a magical experience. And not just for her! I hadn’t even been to the performance, and I could feel the power of it radiating through my grandmother afterwards. I remember sitting on the fountain at Lincoln Center waiting for her and my mom to emerge, and feeling such excitement and anticipation. And when I finally saw them walking towards me, the joy and satisfaction written across my grandmother’s face filled me with more happiness then I would have thought possible.

So thank you, Mr. Pavarotti. Just one account of one life affected by your work. Clearly, you will be missed.

[image from here]

1 Comment so far

  1. Gregg Ruoti (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    Chris, your story reminds me so much of mine:

    My father had come out to visit me in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s. I knew he had been a huge Pavarotti fan ever since I could remember, but he never saw him perform in person. I really wanted to do something extremely special for him, something I knew he would never do for himself due to being brought up with that “Depression Era” mindset. Bringing him to see Pavarotti perform live would be the most sublime way of communicating to my father how much I appreciated him.

    That warm evening literally under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl (which BTW, for an outside venue has unbelievable acoustics), seeing my father come to tears of joy as Luciano sang an Italian song is today my fondest memory of my father. He was compelled to explain that he had not heard that Italian folk song since his mother sang it to him as a child.

    I was already a fervent classical music fan by then, but having grown up with my Italian speaking father constantly playing Pavarotti & Callas (between Copland pieces) in our home, I still never quite “got” opera. That evening under the stars in LA changed that forever. I was so moved by an aria he was singing I too discovered tears streaming down my own face. That exact moment and the exhilarating feeling I will never forget to this day. I went on to see 10’s of operas at the Los Angeles Opera and now personally own over 100 operas.

    While being one of the rare tenors able to perform the 9 high C’s while performing Donizetti’s La Fille Du RĂ©giment, (to the opera uninitiated, this is a BIG DEAL), this became and is still one of my favorite recordings. Even my 7 year old daughter actually enjoys it too. If you are unfamiliar or curious as to what his high C’s sound[ed] like, you can listen here for free: (hit the PLAY button)

    I somehow seemed to have tied so many of my memories of my father to his extreme sentiment for Luciano Pavarotti that today’s news was a particular blow. Thank God (and/or the recording industry) that we were left with so many recordings of what may have been the best tenor that ever lived no matter what some critics say. They are ‘critics’ after all.

    And a big “thanks” to Luciano Pavarotti for bringing opera to billions in only the way he could deliver it.

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