Pete's Blog

Bravo, Maestro

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After hearing of Pavarotti's death tonight I went looking for some clips of him on Youtube. Typically, most of them were from the Three Tenors concerts (when he was well past his prime, the voice flattened by over-use and over-amplification) or the Pavarotti and Friends benefits - each duet pairing more ludicrous than the last, from Liza Minelli to Meat Loaf to James Brown to Lou Reed. Luciano Pavarotti and Lou Reed? That's like watching Michael DeBakey perform open-heart surgery on a gerbil. Here and there, however, you'll find some wonderful things. There's one of "Una Furtiva Lagrima" (that's the clip's title, too) that's beautifully phrased and brilliantly colored. Too bad there's no information on where it was or when. There's also a terrific video with his mentor Joan Sutherland from a Met gala in 1972. They're doing a love duet from "Lucia" that's really thrilling. It's also hilarious watching him try to upstage her for the camera. I wanted to find a "Nessun Dorma," which might be the single aria most associated with him, but of the half-dozen I found none were from his glory years. Still, it's a fabulous piece of music and worth hearing even if he's not at the top of his game. Nobody will sing Puccini that well again in our lifetimes and even if it's the ghost of past greatness you're hearing, it's still greatness. In my reviewing days (mid-'90s) I saw Pavarotti three times: at a Three Tenors scam in Giants Stadium, a solo concert in the Atlantic City Convention Center (home of the Miss America pageant) that was nearly as bad, and, most interestingly, at an all-star performance of the Verdi Requiem in Carnegie Hall, for which he recieved scathing reviews for coasting, being unprepared, etc. That may well have been, but I was fascinated watching him. He didn't seem to care about the concert but this was probably the smallest hall he'd sung in for a long time, so he spent most of the time pinging notes off the ceiling, singing softer and softer, revelling in the acoustic and the lack of amplification. He was like a small boy skipping stones on a lake while the adults around him struggled to land ferocious game fish.

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