Research Paper: Luciano Pavarotti Introduction to Opera

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Luciano Pavarotti

Introduction to Opera- in the 19th century, one of the most popular forms of entertainment for the elite and common person both was opera, particularly in Italy. Opera stars were the equivalent of modern television and movie stars; plots, intrigues, singers, and composers were the elite. As an art form, opera has been part of the musical lexicon since the 16th century, defined as an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic or comedic work from a text (libretto) in a combination musical event. It is part of the Western classical music tradition, and is popular because it incorporates elements of the theater (acting, scenery, costumes, make-up, special effects, and sometimes dance). Because opera combines so many elements of grand theater and music, it is often considered to be representative of the contemporary cultural questions and expressions of the time (the Viking Opera Guide).

While opera developed throughout Europe from the 16th century on, it was the Italian operatic tradition, the lyrical compositions, quality and tonality of voices, and enthusiastic public reception, that seemed to lead the operatic world through the 19th century. Of course there were exceptions to this, one of the seminal grand operatic works was Richard Wagner's four-opera epic, Der Ring Des Nibelungen, but one will certainly find more people raving (and humming) tunes from the Italian repertoir of Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Mascagnit, and Leoncavallo -- most especially since many of these same tunes were used in modern motion picture scoring and even popularized by Bugs Bunny in cartoons (Jones).

However, within the operatic world, two particular voice types, the soprano and the tenor, continue to stand out in the public's eye as the Diva or Divo musical stars. The public followed the antics of both with a fervor almost never seen until the movie star mania popularized from 1930 on. Stories abound about famous singers, Enrico Caurso, Eleanor Steber, Maria Callas, and more have made international headlines for decades. After the dawn of television, however, opera experienced a slight downturn with the cynicism of the 1960s and 1970s, younger listeners finding it more appropriate for the elite, a commentary on the artistocratic European culture, and simply too expensive to attend. Opera impresarios were not blind to this trend, realizing that in order to not lose their audience completely, they would need a new crop of "movie-star" idols who not only were larger than life on stage, but larger than life on stage as well. One of the most sucessful and well-known and loved examples of this since the mid-1960s has been Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who prior to his death in 2007 became one of the most commercially successful tenors of all times. He was part of the Three Tenor ensemble with Placido Domingo and Jose Carerras, made numerous cross-over recordings with pop artists (e.g. Sting, etc.), and was active in charity and humanitarian world. With his performance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy of Pucinni's powerful Nessun Dorma, he won the world's admiration and interest for the remainder of his career (How the 1990 FIFA World Cup Made Pavarotti a Superstar; World Cup 1990 Italia). This turned out to be his signature aria, and in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Pavarotti performed Nessun Dorma with the crowd serving as his chorus, after which the crowd went wild with ovation after ovation. He died at his home in Modena, Italy of Pancreatic cancer on September 6, 2007 (Luciano Pavarotti).

Luciano was larger than life in both physical and vocal performance. He topped 350 pounds at in the 1990s, but had a vocal range and passion that made him one of the most envied modern singers on the modern stage. His life can be broken down into five major sections: early years and training, the 1960s and 1970s (early career), 1980s and 1990s (top of his game), the 21st century, and his legacy.

Early Life and Training -- Luciano was born in 1935 in Modena, a town in northern Italy. He was fortunate that his father, a baker, was also an amateur tenor, although it appears that he had a loving family life, the privations of World War II forced the family from the city to the countryside. While in the countryside, Pavarotti became interested in farming, and of course, Italy's national passtime of soccer. Although he toyed with the idea of becoming a goalkeeper, his father's recordings of Caruso, Di Stefano, Gigli and Martinelli, as well as the popular Mario Lanza caused him to take vocal training seriously. He noted, "In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror" (Luciano Pavarotti, Greatest Singer of the 20th Century).

Pavarotti's mother, however, was more practical, and convinced him to get the credentials to teach school; finally teaching for a few years prior to devoting himself to music. It was not until 1954 that Pavarotti began to study music in any serious manner, but at the age of 19, he began to work aith Arrigo Pola, a professional teacher and tenor in Modena who taught him for free; also uncovering the fact that Pavarotti had perfect pitch (Eggenberger, 80).

When Pola moved to Japan, Pavortti switched to Ettore Campogallianai, who coached a number of the 20th centuries most famous Italian opera stars: Renata Tabaldi, Renata Schotto, Mirella Freni (childhood friend of Pavarotti), and Ruggero Raimondi. Iroincally, Freni's mother and Pavarotti's mother worked together and besides their childhood friendship, they appeared numerous times on stage together. In 1955, for instance, Pavarotti and the Corale Rossini, a male voice choir based in his home town, one first prize at an International competition in Wales. Pavarotti later commented that this was the most important experience in his life, inspiring him to become a professional signer (Pavarotti Eisteddfod Career Start).

The 1950s, though, were not all that easy for Pavarotti. During his early years he held numerous part-time jobs; from teaching school to selling insurance. In fact, the first six years of intense study resulted in only a very few recitals, most without pay, and, as such, a very discouraging time for him. It was also during this time that a small nodule deveolped on one side of his vocal cords, and caused a disastorous performance and panic for Pavarotti and his family. Naturally, something like this at so early a part of his career was traumatic, and he decided to give up singing as a career and pursue something else. However, for whatever reason -- and Pavarotti himself attributed it to a stress release from all the psychological pressure he was feeling about a career, the nodule disappeared and his voice, after resting a bit, came back far stronger and more robust than ever. He noted, "Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve" (Kesting, 112).

Early Career -- 1960s and 1970s - by this time, in 1961, Pavarotti was married to Adua Veroni, who was supportive but not musically inclined. Also in the same year he won the Achille Peri Competition and the first prize of a debut role as Puccini's Rodolfo in La Boeheme. This was an ideal role for the young tenor, it is lyrical, but not excessively demanding; dramatic, but not boisterous; and well-known and loved by audiences. The debut was a success, and a well-known Italian agent, Alesandro Ziliani who was in the audience, decided to represent Pavarotti. Because he was such an unknown, though, Ziliani had to couch Pavarotti as part of a package with his some of his other singers; thus allowing Pavarotti to again sing Rodolfo in Lucca, Italy in 1962 (Luciano Pavarotti).

Rodolfo was almost a signature role for the early Pavarotti; singing it in February 1963 at the Vienna State Opera and then replacing Giuseppe di Stefano at the Royal Opera House (Arendt). Despite these successes, Pavarotti was not getting offers from opera houses until he had a fortunate singing connection with Dame Joan Sutherland and her condutor husdband, Richard Bonygne. It seems Madam Sutherland was tired of short tenors, being a rather tall and robust woman herself. She wanted a tall and muscular tenor to take on her important Australian tour (her homeland) and found Pavarotti to be the ideal physical, and vocal partner. The two sange over 40 performances over two months, all successful, and Pavarotti said that this was a seminal point in his career because he learned Sutherland's breathing technique which helped him maintin his voice over such a long carrer (Sutherland in Ibid).

Pavarotti finally debuted in the United States in 1965 with Sutherland in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, again replacing an ailing tenor and upon the recommendation of Sutherland. In April of the same year he finally made it to Italy's La Scala in Franco Zeffirelli's La Boheme, singing with his childhood friend Mirella Freni and under the baton of Herbert Von Karajan.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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