Why was Pavarotti so good
You have to give a great singer the honor and justice not to judge him by his unsuccessful or only half-successful performances and recordings, but by his best. In the case of Luciano Pavarotti this means: It is of little use to accusingly refer to a recording of the Verdian "Otello", which he made with Georg Solti in the late stages of his career, but for which he did not bring anything essential.
But one should not refer to the "Three Tenors" spectacle that began in 1990 in the Roman Caracalla Baths when Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo teamed up with Zubin Mehta to press three melodies into the microphone in an effortless and account-filling manner , sung by one artist alone, would have been more effective and more responsible.
The last years of Pavarotti's career, which ended only about two years ago, were rather painful for lovers of the art of singing and especially for this unusual singer. Because what an almost immobile colossus offered, clinging convulsively to a tent-sized handkerchief, had little to do with the great Luciano, Mister Big P., as the Americans called him.
The nine times the high "C"
One of the greatest tenor careers of the 20th century began in April 1961 with a "Bohème" Rodolfo at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio nell 'Emilia, his homeland - he was born on October 12, 1935 in neighboring Modena.
From his father Fernando Pavarotti inherited not only the athletic and gigantic stature - the later enormously fat singer was a good footballer in his youth, never slim, but quite athletic and tall - but also the voice and love for singing. The records by Caruso and Gigli, by Pertile and Schipa, which the father sang, who had become a baker instead of a singer, became the first masters.
At first, elementary school teacher seemed to be the right job as a profession, but the first singing lessons with Arrigo Pola revealed considerable talent. The advanced singing eleve came to Ettore Campogalliani's school, from whom Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto and Mirella Freni (a childhood friend of Pavarotti) had already acquired the vocal finesse.
With Pola the young tenor learned the perfect vocal position "in the mask", with Campogalliani the breathing; According to the good Italian school, this was called "cantare sul fiato", that is, to sing on the breath and not to use the air to produce compressed and jammed tones. Most of today's Wagner singers were wished for a summer course with Maestro Campogalliani; Since that is unfortunately no longer possible, the recordings from Pavarotti's prime are strongly recommended.
There was little competition for Pavarotti, both in the focus of sound generation on the crucial areas of the resonance spaces and in the art of legato singing, which can only be achieved through perfect breath control as a prerequisite.
A comparative look at his two colleagues of the tenoral triumvirate teaches it: The young José Carreras had the most distinctive and most exciting timbred voice of the three, Domingo the unmatched repertoire breadth and musical curiosity, paired with a baritone-velvety tenor sound, his greatest However, the charms did not unfold in height.
Pavarotti, however, surpassed her in the perfection of his vocal guidance and when he conquered the world, in the sixties and seventies, he only really felt at home when it went into the vocal stratosphere. There is the opera "The Regiment's Daughter" by Donizetti, written for Paris, with the figure of Tonio and his aria "Ah mes amis, quel jour de fête", which became famous among vocal gourmets, more likely still among vocal gourmands, because it nine high " C "calls.
That sounds even more difficult than it is, because these nine miracle tones don't have to be conquered from below every time, but rather (which is easier) several times in a row. But at least the whole thing has to be sung safely and above all: it has to sound good. In the overall recording of the opera with Joan Sutherland, the Pavarotti mastered it really uniquely.
Ideal Rodolfo the "Bohème"
One only has to compare him with the tenor Juan Diego Flórez, the leading tenor in this repertoire, to recognize Pavarotti's uniqueness. Flórez sings it with high brilliance and a light attack - but Pavarotti had that as well, but in addition he had twice the volume and penetration without even coming close to forcing.
The crowing, which so many excellent tenors can hardly avoid in this highest register, Pavarotti handled it with a clairon-like brilliance and yet never sounded forceful or strenuous. You have to give him credit for the fact that he never overestimated this rather sporty ability.
In an interview he said that Caruso and Tito Schipa were outstanding tenors without being able to produce the high "C" with certainty. They were so because they were enormously musical and perfectly mastered the art of voice leading, which is closely linked to the art of legato - and that is the most important thing.
Joan Sutherland and her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge, were crucial to Pavarotti's career. The two invited him to take part in several major tours in the sixties, during which they mainly presented the bel canto repertoire of Bellini's and Donizetti's operas, as had previously only been brought back to the general consciousness by Maria Callas - but the career Callas was beginning to decline too early at that time.
The "Stupenda" artist Sutherland, with her conductor's husband, who was also versed in stylistic history, needed a tenor who could withstand the diva vowel, who combined coloratura virtuosity in an unusual way with vocal power, and who, next to the not exactly small, not exactly fragile Sutherland, not to the tenor Sidekick withered.
When Bonynge heard Pavarotti in London in 1963, he knew he had found this tenor. The voice was already fully developed, had a metallic core that did not hinder the vocal charm, and not the slightest difficulty in the treble.
Above all: the young Italian was eager to learn. Bonynge always liked to say that he came into the rehearsal room and saw his colleague fumbling with his wife's almost exposed belly. But it was very clear: Pavarotti was only interested in flank breathing and diaphragmatic support.
In addition to the bel canto repertoire, it was above all Rodolfo in "Bohème" who became his most important role. He not only sang it on his stage debut, but always presented himself with it when he had to conquer a new opera house or a new audience.
With the record of the work under Karajan and with "Madame Butterfly", also with Karajan, he finally established himself as one of the leading tenors of the Italian repertoire in the mid-1970s.
In the eighties a development began which, in retrospect, cannot be described as necessarily beneficial for the artistic development of the great tenor. Pavarotti became "Big P." in America, shot in Hollywood, advertised credit cards, never skipped a TV show and purposefully headed for the "Three Tenors".
The New York agent Herbert Breslin, who "made" him in the USA, let Pavarotti earn a tremendous amount of money, earned a modest sum himself and had German journalists joke: "O coal mio". Caruso had occasionally sung similar concerts in Madison Square Garden, but he did not allow himself to be dissuaded from his artistic goal.
Singing pound guy
Pavarotti, on the other hand, turned out to be irritable. He possessed the common sense and the quick wit that is said of the residents of Emilia Romagna, but he was not always sufficiently self-critical as an artist, and although he had clever managers in crucial phases of his career, he obviously did not always have the right artistic advisors.
His problem was that his timbre and his genuine singing style were that of the tenore di grazia, but the strength and security of his high notes led to believe that he was a spinto tenor or even more, i.e. a tenor for the dramatic roles of the Italian repertoire. This led to increasing uncertainty and problematic willingness to take risks when choosing roles.
He himself once said with a touch of self-knowledge: "My voice calls for Donizetti, but I want Verdi." The "Rigoletto" duke succeeded in Verdi, but Manrico was no longer entirely successful, and certainly not Otello.
Pavarotti wasn't a singer who drilled into roles, not a really compelling performer. "I'm not Laurence Olivier", he is said to have reacted to a criticism that lamented his lack of stage presence. This was not only due to the physical immobility of his later years; he was ultimately denied the ability to undertake deeper, dramatic soul plumbing on a character, such as is indispensable for an Otello.
He could spread a warm and down-to-earth charm in his private life and on stage, he could also, for example as Nemorino in Donizetti's "Love Potion", be of a bear-like, clumsy comedy, but pathos and tragedy, as epitomized by a Jon Vickers monumental figure - definitely also with Verdi - were out of his reach.
With melancholy tenderness
If Herbert von Karajan really claimed that Pavarotti was taller than Caruso, then that was an inadmissible comparison in this respect. It is enough to listen to Caruso's recording of Eleazar's aria from Halévy's "La Juive" to know what a tenoral tragedy is and what Pavarotti was not.
There is enough to remember Luciano Pavarotti with gratitude and happiness. An expansive cordiality, an enchanting, floating and smiling, clear tenor sound in his best recordings, combined with a naturally growing art of phrasing and an effortless development of strength, which is achieved without any vocal weight-lifting manner - those were the pounds he was singing with, and the other pounds didn't bother me for a long time.
But this radiant tenor could also be different, and then he really got to the heart when he sang Nemorino's "Una furtiva lagrima" and Rodolfo's "Che gelida manina". In the seventies he made a record with songs from Bellini, among others. There he sings about the friendly nymph melancholy, the "malinconia, ninfa gentile".
The song only lasts just under two minutes, but Pavarotti develops a wonderful melancholy tenderness and tenderness that one would not trust the tenoral radiant man at first glance.
Luciano Pavarotti has now died at the age of 71 as a result of his cancer, which became known a year ago, in Modena, where he was born.
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