Of all modern opera singers Luciano Pavarotti was the biggest. A household name, the Italian tenor was able to pack out stadiums several times over. Pavarotti's family made the best of poor beginnings, despite the hardship of being forced into a rented single room in the countryside by World War II in 1943. Music proved a welcome distraction. His father, Fernando, was a baker and a gifted amateur tenor, who instilled a love for singing in his son that would eventually supersede the promising goalkeeper's lifelong passion for football. Off the pitch Pavarotti enjoyed the recordings of the day's popular tenors including Jussi Bjöerling, Tito Schipa and Giuseppe Di Stefano and began singing with his father in the Corale Rossini, a male choir in Modena. He also studied singing with his friend Mirella Freni, who later became a star soprano. His determination to make it as a professional opera singer was cemented when Pavarotti travelled with a chorus from his hometown to an international music competition in Wales and scooped first prize.
During 1954, aged 19, Pavarotti began studying with professional tenor Arrio Pola who, astonished by his perfect pitch, offered to teach him for free. After six long years of studying he still only had a handful of unpaid performances under his belt, with jobs as a part-time schoolteacher and an insurance salesman helping to keep the wolf from the door. His fortunes took a turn for the better when he triumphed in an international competition at the Teatro Reggio Emilia in 1961, and by the end of April he hade had made his operatic debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme to appreciative notices. It ultimately presaged his international debut in 1963, when he stepped in for his childhood idol Giuseppe Di Stefano in the same role at the Royal Opera House in London. Pavarotti impressed all who saw him as he traversed Europe on the La Scala tour of 1963/1964 on the way to his American debut. Cast in the Miami production of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in February 1965, it began an enduring partnership with Australian soprano Joan Sutherland. It was their sparkling performances in another Donizetti opera, La Fille du Régiment that took London's Covent Garden and the New York Metropolitan Opera by storm during 1972.
Pavarotti's voice and performance were very much in the powerful style of the traditional Italian tenor, burnished and deep, yet remarkably full in its upper registers. The ease with which he soared to those famous high notes, however, made him unique and earned him the nickname 'King of the High Cs'. He was never the greatest stage actor, but his burly gate, huge expressive eyes and engaging smile overcame his shortcomings. It was the voice, however, that inevitably swept listeners away. He became internationally known as a concert performer, achieving a large following due to the success of his television appearances and albums such as The World's Favourite Tenor Arias (1973), O Holy Night (1976) and Verismo (1979). Pavarotti's participation in The Three Tenors, alongside other masters Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, was even more successful as the trio entered the Guinness Book Of World Records for the then best selling classical album with 1990's The Three Tenors In Concert. In its wake Pavarotti spread his talents further, also sharing stages with Eric Clapton, Celine Dion and even The Spice Girls. In the rarefied world of classical music there were disparaging remarks about dumbing down, but Pavarotti invariably pulled both listeners and fans with him and, perhaps, more than anyone, drew fresh audiences towards opera and helped expand its popularity worldwide. He was also a keen humanitarian. The founder and ebullient host of the annual Pavarotti & Friends charity concerts in his home city of Modena, he collaborated with international stars of all styles to raise funds for several worthy UN causes. Pavarotti sang on Passengers' 1995 hit 'Miss Sarajevo', recorded alongside Bono and U2, and raised $1,500,000 in his charity project Concert for Bosnia. He also established the Pavarotti Music Center in Bosnia and raised funds for refugees from Afghanistan and Kosovo.
More than any other song, 'Nessun Dorma' from Giacomo Puccini's Turandot, with its final ringing affirmation of 'Vincero' ('I shall win'), became his rousing signature tune and an international soccer anthem to boot after it was used as the theme song for the BBC's coverage on the 1990 Fifa World Cup in Italy. Pavarotti also performed the song during his last major performance, at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006. While preparing to resume his 40-city farewell tour in July 2006, Pavarotti underwent emergency surgery at a New York hospital to remove a pancreatic tumour. He underwent two further weeks of treatment in August 2007 near his home in Modena. Pavarotti died there on September 6th 2007, surrounded by his family. He was laid to rest with his parents in the family tomb in Montale Rangone cemetery in a ceremony packed with celebrities and telecast live on CNN. He was survived by four daughters – three with his first wife Adua Veroni, and one with his second wife, Nicoletta Mantovani.
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