Luciano Pavarotti’s 6 Greatest Roles

Luciano Pavarotti is one of the greatest tenors of all-time, his artistry leaving a massive legacy behind him.

The tenor, born on Oct 12, 1935 in Modena, will always be remembered for his charming disposition which was matched by the color of his voice. His ability to transcend the opera stage and reach millions around the world with a variety of interests is one of the things he has left behind.

For many people “opera” is synonymous with “Pavarotti” and that can never be overlooked. On the opera stage he was a defining experience for many opera goers. Here is a look at arguably his most transcendent roles.

Tonio in “La Fille du Régiment” 

Pavarotti’s ability with the nine high Cs cemented his title as the “King of High Cs.” This role alone made him an overnight success, and while he did experience major embarrassment in this very opera at the tailend of his career, his work in this Donizetti work has never quite been surpassed, even if other great tenors have left their own indelible marks on it.

Rodolfo in “La Bohème”

 

What makes Pavarotti’s interpretation of the bohemian so impactful is the youthfulness that he manages to infuse into the role. His voice, with its sunny color and yet potent weight, allowed him to straddle that line between maturity and playfulness that Rodolfo hops throughout the opera. We feel him brimming with hotheaded passion in some moments and then mature tenderness in others.


Il Duca di Mantua in “Rigoletto”

Quite the charmer himself, this role was made for Pavarotti’s voice. His elegant legato is allowed to move about with ease as Verdi’s most ambivalous tenor role. In several recordings Pavarotti makes us love the Duke, simply because we love the sunshine he provides us with vocally.

Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera”

Another Verdi role that Pavarotti conquered throughout his career, this one is quite fascinating for how similar it is in many ways to the Duke in “Rigoletto.” We get that sunny disposition, that joie de vivre in the rather immature ruler that is Riccardo and yet we feel the sense of development as he grows into his role of ruler in those final acts. Pavarotti always had a way with that final act aria, where we get a tremendous sense of pathos as Riccardo contemplates letting his duty win out over his personal motives.

Canio in “Pagliacci”

Pavarotti was far from an incredible actor and yet on occasion he could really pull out all the stops. In this opera, he relied heavily on his voice to do the heavy dramatic lifting, which he did quite memorably on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera. While many singers could truly make the famed “Vesti la giubba” resonate with intense emotion, few could make it weep the way Pavarotti could.

Cavaradossi in “Tosca”

One of Pavarotti’s touchstone interpretations, the tenor performed this opera everywhere he could, always quite the success. The role suited him quite well, allowing him to transform from the playful and flirtatious Mario to the potent hero to the tragic figure in that final segment. You don’t always get that arc from many tenors, but you definitely get it from Pavarotti.

Did we miss any roles? Let us know in the comments below. 

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About the Author

David Salazar
Prior to creating OperaWire, DAVID SALAZAR, (Editor-in-Chief) worked as a reporter for Latin Post where he interviewed major opera stars including Placido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, Vittorio Grigolo, Diana Damrau and Rolando Villazon among others. His 2014 interview with opera star Kristine Opolais was cited in a New York Times Review. He also had the opportunity of interviewing numerous Oscar nominees, Golden Globe winners and film industry giants such as Guillermo del Toro, Oscar Isaac and John Leguizamo among others. David holds a Masters in Media Management from Fordham University. During his time at Fordham, he studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Poland. He also holds a dual bachelor’s from Hofstra University in Film Production and Journalism.

1 Comment on "Luciano Pavarotti’s 6 Greatest Roles"

  1. Thanks for the list. I’m not sure I agree with the inclusion of Pagliacci. Canio was really not an important part of Pavarotti’s repertoire. To my knowledge, he sang only two staged performances of it at the Met in 1994, recorded it and sang it in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Riccardo Muti, which was later released as a recording. I’d be happy to learn if he ever sang it in any other theater.

    The real omission here is Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, a role that he sang often and IMHO owned. The infectious joy with which he sang the part was enchanting. He inhabited that role more than any other and it fit him vocally and histrionically like a glove.

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