Michael McCooe: Opera – Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti (12 October 1935 – 6 September 2007) was an Italian operatic tenor who managed to take his music into the mainstream musical sphere. He became one of the most successful operatic tenors of all time, gaining worldwide fame for the brilliance and beauty of his tone—especially into the upper register.

One of the greatest tenors of the 20th Century, Pavarotti was thought to be at his best in bel canto operas, pre-Aida Verdi roles, and Puccini works such as La bohèmeTosca, and Madama Butterfly.

Early career

Pavarotti was born in 1935 on the outskirts of Modena in Northern Italy, and his father was an amateur tenor. Beginning to sing at the age of 9, he was deeply influenced by the likes of Giuseppe Di Stefano and Mario Lanza in his teens.

He had intended to become a football goalkeeper for much of his childhood and early adult life, later training as a teacher through the insistence of his mother. After two years of teaching, his interest in music became too strong and he received the permission from his father, who reluctantly allowed him to take the risk to pursue a career in opera.

Establishment as a singer


Pavarotti began to study music seriously at the age of 19, receiving free lessons from Arrigo Pola, a well-respected teacher. He and his father were part of the choir from Modena which won first prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, in 1955.

Pavarotti later explained that this was the most important part of his career as the success convinced him to become a professional singer. He met Adua Veroni around the same time and the pair married in 1961.

Using his teaching and a job as an insurance salesman, he saved enough money to support his musical exploits and he made his debut as Rodolfo in La bohème at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia in April 1961.

Success of Pavarotti

With reasonable success through the 1970s, Pavarotti excelled from the mid-1980s and established his operas around the world. He did however earn a reputation as “The King of Cancellations” by frequently backing out of performances, and his unreliable nature led to poor relationships with some opera houses throughout his career.

Retiring following his farewell tour in 2006 – during which he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – he holds the record for 165 curtain calls. His final performance was on 10 February 2006, as he sung Nessun Dorma at the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Turin. Works such as Nessun Dorma, Ave Maria and Caruso have become famous worldwide.

You can listen to some of my favourite classics on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated on a regular basis.