Thursday, September 6, 2007

Arrivederci, caro Pavarotti

And Il Maestro finds his peace.

My favourite shot of him - © Decca 2003
Perhaps it's selfish of me, as is the rest of the opera world mourning for the one tenor everyone knew. It was the same with Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, etc. Millions weeping for the world's loss of this fine person. If the world still needed them, I don't think they would have passed on.

Nevertheless I could not help but shed tears as I watched the clip lancerlord put up on his blog of Pavarotti singing his signature Nessun Dorma in Paris, 1998. Honestly it was nothing to wow about, but seeing him hit the high note without even flinching, and the look of ecstasy on his face as the orchestra's closing sequence filled in, tears just started leaking. He's gone, I heard in my mind. Gone.

Bloggers all around the world are paying this great man tribute by posting Youtube clips of him (97% of which will be Nessun Dorma from his later years). Allow me to go old-school and talk about how he brought me into the world of opera.

Before I discovered opera in '03, he was who he was to everyone else. A huge rotund man who always seemed to be smiling, singing in a really weird voice. Not only that, two other guys joined him with those same strange voices, and they called themselves The Three Tenors.

After deciding to research opera at the library@Esplanade, I dug the opera Turandot up. The first version I got was Maria Callas, a really old 1950+ recording in which the audio quality begged to be improved. I recalled that there were other CDs of the same name but with different casts, so one week later I went back. And I picked the legendary Turandot recording of Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland and Monsserrat Caballe without even knowing what treasure I held in my hands. To date, it's the one and only opera recording that persistently sits unmolested in my iTunes library. Unmolested but not untouched - I listen to it all the time. I just listened to it yesterday.

I soon discovered that pairing him with Joan Sutherland almost always (I'm saying almost only because I don't feel I've heard enough to definitively say always) produced benchmark recordings. I'd joined an opera listserv, and found that the Three Tenors era was already a huge decline in his voice, that his prime was in the early 70s. Thus I searched, and thus I found brilliance par excellence.

All good things must come to an end, and for Pavarotti, the best ended over 30 years ago. But he had a different goal - one of bringing opera to the masses, to the everyman, to the average person. That if opera was to be represented by one name, it would be him, and he would show them beauty.

Absolute beauty.

Goodbye Maestro, and thank you. Thank you very much. Rest in peace.

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