Luciano Pavarotti, born on Oct. 12, 1935, is a pop culture icon. He was also a great tenor.
Pavarotti’s initial dreams were to be a football / soccer player, though he would eventually dedicate himself to singing. It is interesting to note that the great tenor struggled to find his voice early on in his career, constantly switching teachers and holding down part-time jobs to sustain himself. However, a nodule on his vocal chords threatened to derail everything.
But by 1961, he had started to perform in Italy’s regional houses, and within two years he was performing around the world. One of the first major steps toward superstardom was his collaboration with Joan Sutherland, with whom the tenor would perform and record extensively throughout his career.
His US debut came at the Greater Miami Opera in 1965 and his Met Opera breakout came in 1972 when he sang “La Fille du Régiment,” a work with which he had previously triumphed in London and had earned the title of “King of High Cs.”
His career would feature extensive crossover, numerous Grammy Award victories, television appearances, and a film appearance.
He also established The Pavarotti International Voice Competition in the 1980s, but really struck gold when he joined forces with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras to form the famed “Three Tenors.” The three would tour international to great acclaim.
The tenor died in 2007 after losing his battle with cancer. He left behind an insurmountable legacy, with many seeing him as the face of opera.
The tenor performed a wide range of Italian repertoire, specializing in the operas of Donizetti, Verdi, and Puccini. From Donizetti, he will forever be remembered for his work as Tonio in “La Fille du Régiment,” the work that earned him the title of “King of High Cs.” Among the Verdi operas, his interpretation of the Duca in “Rigoletto” is iconic, though his turn as Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera” is equally beloved.
When it comes to Puccini, he is best known as Rodolfo in “La Bohème,” though his interpretation of Cavaradossi in “Tosca” remains a favorite for many.
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Watch and Listen
Here is the iconic performance from the Met in “La Fille du Régiment,” followed by a film version of “Rigoletto” where we can hear his vocal virtuosity as the Duke of Mantua.