Welcome to a brand new series by William Price King. William originally trained in classical music and performed in North America and Europe before turning his musical talents to Jazz.
In the last two years we have featured some of the most talented and legendary Jazz artists and it is now time to turn our focus to some classical performers who have opened our hearts to the magic of beautifully crafted music.
The first of those artists is one that for me, brought opera into our homes is a very majestic way at a time when the charts were full of 80s and 90s rock ‘n’ roll and popular music, and classical music was thought to be high brow and beyond the reach of ordinary people.
Luciano Pavarotti was an Italian tenor and one of the most popular contemporary vocal performers in the world of opera and across multiple musical genres. Known for his televised concerts, and as one of the Three Tenors, Pavarotti was also noted for his award-winning charity work for raising money on behalf of refugees, the Red Cross, War Child, and many other charitable organizations.
He is best known worldwide, both amongst opera aficionados and the general public with whom he achieved his international celebrity, when in 1990 his rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s aria, “Nessun Dorma” from opera “Turandot”, became the theme song of the BBC television coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. https://www.discogs.com/artist/55683-Luciano-Pavarotti
I will now hand you over to William Price King to pick up the story of Luciano Pavarotti.
In October 1935, a legend was born on the outskirts of the northern Italian city of Modena, on the south side of the Po Valley. The city is well known for other legendary names too. The automative industry has been producing such iconic cars carrying the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Masarati names for many years.
Luciano’s parents Fernando and Adele Venturi were hard working people. His father was a baker but was also an amateur tenor, who despite singing with the local choir, was reluctant to commit to a professional singing career due to a lack of self-confidence. Money was tight and the family of four lived in a small apartment until 1943 when the war began to impact the city. They moved into one room on a farm in the safer surroundings of the countryside.
Luciano had an active childhood and loved playing football, but he also found himself listening to his father’s recordings of tenors of the day. These included one of Luciano’s favourite artists, who would later have a direct influence on his career, the great tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano. Another of Luciano’s influences in those early years was Mario Lanzo, and he used to watch his films at the cinema and then come home to imitate him in front of the mirror. Fernando encouraged Luciano to sing with his choir and at the age of nine years old he made his first public appearance.
The young Luciano faced a difficult choice when he graduated from school. He was interested in following a career in professional football in the key position of goalkeeper, but his mother Adele persuaded him to train as a teacher instead. Following his training Luciano taught for two years but his love of music persisted leading to his decision to spend the next seven years in vocal training. At nineteen he enrolled with Arrigo Pola a teacher and professional tenor in Modena who agreed to teach him free of charge.To support himself Luciano worked at part-time jobs including as a school teacher and then an insurance salesman. Arrigo discovered that his student had perfect pitch but according to those who worked with this talented tenor; he never learned to read music.
At age 20, Luciano had his first taste of success when the Corale Rossini, the male voice choire he and Fernando were members of, won the first prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. This experience cemented his decision to become a professional singer.
Following the departure of his teacher Arrigo Pola for Japan, Luciano became the student of Ettore Campogalliani who was also teacher to a childhood friend, Mirella Freni. She too would go on to achieve fame on the operatic stage and they performed and recorded many times together.
During the next few years apart from studying, Luciano performed in surrounding towns without pay. Then disaster struck when he developed a nodule on his vocal chords; resulting in a very poor performance at a concert and his subsequent decision to give up singing. Thankfully for the world of opera and his legions of fans, the condition did heal and Pavarotti attributed this to the psychological release of stepping away from performances and the stress and intensity of training.
Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography: “Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve”.
Then came a breakthrough in 1961 when he won the Achille Peri Competition and the first prize was the role of Rodolfo in a production of Puccini’s La Bohème to be given in Reggio Emilia on April 28 of that year.
In his debut performance of this famous aria, Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme, the young Pavarotti was quite convincing. He expressed the passion and style that later characterized his career. He sang the lyrics in long, sustained, legato breaths and with impeccable diction. He was at ease and flawless in vocal quality and presence. The “bravos” at the end of the aria were well deserved!!!
His debut was a success but moving forward with his career would require a new approach to obtaining roles and luckily for Luciano a well-known agent, Alesandro Ziliani was in the audience. He offered to represent him and when La Bohème was to be produced in Lucca, Italy, Ziliani told the management that they could only have the services of a well-known singer they wanted if they took Pavarotti in a package deal.
Very early in his career, on 23 February 1963, he debuted at the Vienna State Opera in the same role. In March and April 1963 Vienna saw Pavarotti again as “Rodolfo” and as “Duca di Mantova” in Rigoletto. The same year saw his first concert outside Italy when he sang in Dundalk, Ireland for the St Cecilia’s Gramophone Society and his Royal Opera House debut where he replaced his teenage idol Giuseppe Di Stefano who was ill as Rodolfo.
During the critical time in his career two established performers took Luciano under their wing. Giuseppe Di Stefano would mentor the young tenor and this included preventing him taking roles before his voice was ready.
In a huge boost to his career Luciano had the opportunity to work with the great Joan Sutherland. Luckily Ms. Sutherland was looking for a young tenor who was taller than herself to take on an extended tour to Australia and found the perfect answer in the physically imposing Pavarotti. The two sang some forty performances over two months, and Pavarotti later credited Sutherland for the breathing technique that would sustain him over his career.
To end this chapter in Luciano Pavarotti’s early career, is this delightful concert version of the aria “La donna è mobile” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto performed in Moscow in 1964, Pavarotti, as the Duke, sings with real vigor. He shows off the power, intensity and sparkle that made him such a great performer. This aria is in strophic form, which basically means the same music is repeated throughout the piece. His crisp diction, emphatic accentuation, and bright vowels are quite impressive. No wonder this song was the hit of the opera.
Additional material : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luciano_Pavarotti
Buy the music of Luciano Pavarotti: https://www.amazon.com/Luciano-Pavarotti/e/B0017PCMVM
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.
His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.
William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
Connect to William
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
I hope you have enjoyed the first episode of this new series and as always we value your feedback.. thanks Sally