My mother reports that yesterday on BBC radio there were hours and hours of tributes to Luciano Pavarotti. Well, perhaps I'd better let her tell you.
...a few minutes
ago someone said he was the greatest tenor of the age.
Ross promptly shouted oh piss off, and switched the
radio off so I asked him who he thought was the
greatest tenor. Pav could only sing happy or not
happy, that's all, he replied. I said that someone at
Covent Garden had said Pav couldn't act for toffee but
his voice conveyed everything.
Nonsense! none of them can act, they all just go waaa
My stepdad is an passionate, educated, if slightly idiosyncratic listener to classical music. (I am thinking now of that interlude a few years back when all he listened to was old English church music). Classical music is the only kind of music he listens to. And like a lot of people who are serious about classical music, he had reservations about Pavarotti as a singer. I share those reservations though I am far from a serious listener. He had a beautiful voice, and what a lot of it! It never seemed in danger of wearing out. And he always seemed like such a nice guy, who was really trying to give you the music with all of himself. But at his worst he just sort of shouted to the music. (I've been thinking about this recently, as will become apparent in something I'm working on now.) I mean, in opera you can have a lovely voice and yet not sing. Pavarotti, singing well and singing badly, made classical singing accessible to a lot of people and that's ground for tremendous gratitude, in our day and age. But when you thought he was making the music beautiful it was the other way around -- the music was beautiful to begin with.
I used to cringe slightly whenever I'd see another one of those "pop" productions, like those Three Tenors things, because it was like marketing Pavarotti as the music. Now I feel a little more forgiving, as I'm sure the enormous commercial success of those albums helped to subsidize the production of music that served a smaller, but more devoted audience. He truly was a servant of his art, and a generous one.