Luciano Pavarotti, known for his larger-than-life showmanship that helped expand the popularity of opera, was born on October 12, 1935, on the outskirts of Modena in north-central Italy. He is the son of a baker and amateur singer, Pavarotti’s family was crowded into a two-room apartment.
Pavarotti wanted to be a soccer star, but found he enjoyed his father’s recordings, featuring the popular tenors of the day such as Bjoerling, Tito Schipa and his favourite, Giuseppe Di Stefano.
At around the age of 9, he began singing with his father in a small local church choir. His American debut in February 1965, in the Miami production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, also launched his legendary partnership with Australian soprano Joan Sutherland.
He scored another major triumph in Rome on 20 November 1969 when he sang in I Lombardi opposite Renata Scotto. This was recorded on a private label and widely distributed, as were various recordings of his I Capuleti e i Montecchi, usually with Aragall.
Early commercial recordings included a recital of Donizetti (the aria from Don Sebastiano were particularly highly regarded) and Verdi arias, as well as a complete L’elisir d’amore with Sutherland.
Pavarotti sang his international recital début at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, on 1 February 1973, as part of the college’s Fine Arts Program, now known as the Harriman-Jewell Series.
Perspiring due to nerves and a lingering cold, the tenor clutched a handkerchief throughout the début. The prop became a signature part of his solo performances.
In 1976, Pavarotti debuted at the Salzburg Festival, appearing in a solo recital on 31 July, accompanied by pianist Leone Magiera. Pavarotti returned to the festival in 1978 with a recital and as the Italian singer in Der Rosenkavalier in 1983 with Idomeneo, and both in 1985 and 1988 with solo recitals.
Throughout the 1980s Pavarotti strengthened his status as one of the opera world’s leading figures. Televised performances of Pavarotti in many of his greatest and favourite roles helped him broaden his appeal.
He was able to reach millions of viewers each time one of his opera performances or solo concerts was seen. He also began to show increasing flexibility as a recording artist. He recorded classical operas and Italian folk songs.
In 2000 prosecutors in Bologna, Italy, tried Pavarotti on tax fraud charges. They claimed that although Pavarotti lived in Monte Carlo he still had many property holdings in Italy.
Pavarotti was accused of owing almost $5 million and could have spent as much as a year and a half in prison. In the end, he was acquitted.
While preparing to resume his 40-city farewell tour in July 2006, Pavarotti underwent an emergency surgery at a New York hospital to remove a pancreatic tumour.
The tenor underwent another two weeks of treatment in August 2007, at a hospital in his hometown of Modena, Italy. He was released two weeks before his death. Pavarotti died in Modena on September 6, 2007, at the age of 71. Pavarotti has been an important figure in bringing the world of opera to a great array of individuals.