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Homage to Luciano Pavarotti: A Deafening Silence

Can you hear the silence? Luciano Pavarotti has been forced to cancel his performances for rest of this year because of the removal of a malignant pancreatic mass.

He has impressed his doctors with his physical and emotional resilience, and plans to resume in 2007. At the age of 70, he has been singing for us for over 40 years.

The silence of the media has also been deafening. The news has been spread mostly by word-of-mouth. Club Vivo Per Lei members email me daily – “I have just learned the news.”

Like the blogger who wrote, “He has been the soundtrack for much of my life,” Pavarotti is so much a part of my life, I knew almost nothing about him. He rarely grants interviews. Ah well, if one can sing, why talk?

By all reports, he isn’t a complicated man. Italian to the core, he appreciates food, women, song, family, home, and the place where he grew up. And his fans. These are the things of which he speaks.

“I can tell you which aria the audience like,” he says. “Nessun Dorma.”

I looked for his opinions about the grand themes of opera – the agony and the ecstasy – but like his fellow Italian, Verdi, he seems to distill life to its essence and keep it close to home. “For me, music making is the most joyful activity possible,” he says, “the most perfect expression of any emotion.” (See more quotes here: www.susandunn.cc/pavarottiquotes.htm )

This from a man whose voice can reach inside you, wring you inside out, and leave you weak and weeping, not knowing if its suffering or bliss; like life, the licking of honey off a thorn.

He speaks of his voice as something separate … his instrument.

“You don’t need any brains to listen to music,” he says. He has brought more people into the world of opera than anyone in history, except perhaps Verdi. As he so graciously puts it, “I might just have introduced some people to this music!”

To read about opera, he says, is like making love by mail. I followed this prescription in my own learning process. Tossing aside the worthless college textbook on opera a friend lent me, I bought CDs and attended operas.

Already familiar with Pavarotti, I’d been exploring lately -- Wunderlich, Caruso, Gedda, Bjorling; like most women, I prefer the tenors. And then the news about Pavarotti took me back home. My sister had emailed me, “That man has given me more hours of bliss than any person on earth.” The King of High Cs. In La Fille du Regiment at the Met, in 1972, he sang 9 effortless high Cs, sending the audience wild. He also holds the Guiness record for most curtain calls – 165.

“To understand his success,” writes his wife of 35 years, Adua, “and what it is about his voice that stops people in their tracks …” we must go back to his origins.

Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, October 12, 1935, an only child. His father, Fernando, sang tenor well until 2 weeks before his death, at 90, and Luciano plans to do the same. Modena is in a region of Italy that produces strong, broad-chested men such as can sing opera, and Luciano’s extraverted and optimistic temperament made him well-suited for the rigors of the operatic lifestyle.

He was taken to his first opera at the age of 12, but his singing career began much earlier. “At the age of 4,” he says, “I jump on the table. I am a little tenor. And I begin to sing, La Donna e Mobile.”

One of the 25 most-recognized people in the world, he was the first opera star to really make use of the media. Almost his entire career is recorded. His concert in Central Park in June of ’93 was attended by 500,000, with millions more watching on TV. However, he says, “Above all, I am an opera singer. This is how people will remember me.”

We know he has a voice the likes of which we will not hear again in our lifetimes, so what, really can the critics tell us? But with typical garbo, Pavarotti says, “People have a right to criticize. If they boo me because I sing bad, they will do it.”

However, it is the voices of we the people that speak what he has meant to us:

• Una maravilla de Reconditat Armonia

• Vamos Luciano! Eres fuerte y te recuperaras de tu endermedad. Ritorna vincitor!

• Oooooo…Goosebumps!

• Caro Maestro Luciano sei stato Grande.

• This man will always live in my heart. Such an amazingly beautiful instrument.

• Mio Dio!

• Pavarotto! Ecce il uomo.

• The last “vincero” was god’s own voice.

• Ay, Dios mio.

• Je veux morire. (I want to die)

• When he was in his prime, his voice was the most thrilling in the history of recorded sound.

• Thank you, Pav!

The resilience? The attitude? When interviewed about his retirement by bbc in 2005, Jeremy Paxman kept pumping for something that simply isn’t there. Like what was the worst thing that had ever happened to him “during that time.” “Which time?” Pavarotti asks.

The nightmares, Paxman wants to know about.

“It was a constant pleasure,” Pavarotti replies.

“Even when things go wrong?” asks Paxman?

“Yes, so what” replies Pavarotti. “I am a very optimistic human being in one sense, yes, but I like the truth.”

The Italians, of course, are never too direct about things, that concept they call “garbo.” It means “polite,” “kind,” “kindness,” or “graciousness,” but, a synecdoche in itself, in the Venetian dialect it means “curt,” or “abrupt.” In includes a heady fusion of fact and fiction, which may be a secret to resilience, and feeds the fantasy the rest of the world has that Italians are somehow enjoying more (and suffering more) than the rest of us. And to this blend of realistic illusion, or fantasized reality, you would say “it can’t be that complicated,” and an Italian would say, “it isn’t that simple.”

Still after the goat, Paxman pursues, “Some people say you should have retired some time ago.” Pavarotti replies, “Well, some people are probably right!”

Besides, we all know he won’t retire. It is hard for a young man in Italy, because the men work forever. Pavarotti’s father was singing at 90, and Pavarotti plans the same.

Does he read music, Paxman wants to know. His reply is incomprehensible, and truly why would we care? He sings it. Who cares if he reads it?

The indefatigable Paxman tries one last time: “But will you be glad to stop performing?”

“No,” he replies.

“Will you miss it?”

“No.”

He then mentions the “beautiful companies” he has – family, friends, students, and adds, “I am not missing it already. This was, of course, before the Farewell Tour of 2006.

It is just as typical that Pavarotti has expressed no acrimony in response to his former manager’s book, THE KING & I.: The Uncensored Tale of Luciano Pavarotti's Rise to Fame by His Manager, Friend and Sometime Adversary (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385509723/susandunnmome-20. He in fact expresses is gratitude.

“I never got to see him at the Met,” my sister writes me. Well, I will take her to see Pavarotti at the Met, when he returns in 2007. I’m part Italian, you know. I don’t know his schedule, or if he will be able to sing, or how well, but we will not go to hear him, we will go to pay him homage, and to thank him for the memories. And if that concept remains a fantasy, well you don’t need to be able to read music in order to sing.

In closing, I may have, unfaithfully, listened to other tenors, but Pavarotti was my Christmas for many years. An often exhausted working single mother, I would choose one special night. After I had put the boys to bed, I would turn on the Christmas tree lights. No dishes, no laundry that night. I would slip the Christmas video into the VCR, climb into my recliner in front of the big screen TV with slippers and hot toddy, and the tears would start streaming down my face.

Grazie, mille, Luciano Pavarotti. Please get well soon.

If you can bear to, watch him singing Nessun Dorma at Torino in 2006. It is, indeed, the aria the audience like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwlE_qNSWLw .

Submitted by:

Susan Dunn, MA

Susan Dunn, MA, Life & EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc, mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc . Offering worldwide individual coaching, coach training and certification, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional health. Susan is the founder of Club Vivo Per Lei (www.susandunn.cc/vivoperlei.htm) dedicated to Dr. John Alifano, and an ardent opera fan. See www.susandunn.cc/pavarottiquotes.htm for more about Pavarotti.





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