Classical Music with William Price King – Luciano Pavarotti – Part Three

classical musicLast week we covered the career of Luciano Pavarotti as he began to perform internationally, including a 40 date tour of Australia with soprano Joan Sutherland. William Price King now picks up the story in the 1970s as Luciano begins to establish his recording career.


There were certainly times when the incredible talent of Luciano Pavarotti was accompanied by some controversy. Television appearances brought Pavarotti and opera into everyone’s homes and his concerts away from Opera houses gave everyone the opportunity to enjoy hearing him live. This did not always sit well with Opera critics or companies.

Luciano Pavarotti is one of the only contemporary opera singers to gain so much fame that he became a household name. He inspired opera fans and intrigued other listeners to discover an interest in opera. He even developed a program to encourage young opera singers. But he also received a significant amount of criticism throughout and because of his success. Critics and others in the industry chastised him for his popularity and concert performances, television appearances, and film roles. However, even his detractors cannot deny the power of his reach as the most listened to opera singer in history. Alain Levy, president/CEO of Polygram Records summed up the span of his influence to Paul Verna in Billboard.” Pavarotti’s remarkable talents have encouraged both a new generation of music lovers and an older generation which hadn’t listened to opera for a long time,” he said.’

As well as recordings of performances including Lucia di Lammermoor, La Fille du Regiment and Madame Butterfly during the 1970s, Luciano Pavarotti recorded a number of solo albums of arias and songs that popularised opera music on a massive scale.

These included Pavarotti in Concert, King of the High ‘C’s, The World’s Favourite Tenor Arias and a Christmas album, O Holy Night and O Sole Mio.. Here is a performance of that popular song, which is also known a Neapolitan song and was written in 1898 by Giovanni Capurro. The music was composed by Eduardo di Capua. The song has been recorded many times over the last fifty years but here is Luciano with his version from his album – O Sole Mio…(My Sunshine).

In O Sole Mio, as in most of what Pavarotti sings, he is very comfortable with the bel canto line. His incredible breath control and his brilliantly intuitive singing becomes quite apparent immediately. The music sings itself, and it flows out of Pavarotti in such a wonderful way that one can’t help being immediately seduced by his attractive singing.

Note: Bel canto – a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasing.

After his tour of Australia with Joan Sutherland, Pavarotti continued to make his name in America. He sang his international recital debut at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri in February 1973. It was at this critical performance that the signature part of his solo performances was first noted. What might have been taken for an affectation was in fact a necessity.. Due to nerves and the aftermath of a cold, Luciano clutched a handkerchief throughout his performance… And did so thereafter.

In 1976 Pavarotti debuted at the prestigious Salzburg Festival in a solo recital and again in 1978. He would return on several occasions as part of a performance such as in De Rosenkavalier, a comic three act opera by Richard Strauss and Idomeneo by Mozart.

He was also in demand on television and he returned to his role as Rodolfo in La bohème in the first Live from the Met telecast in March 1977 which was viewed by one of the largest audiences ever for a televised opera. He would appear in over a dozen broadcasts over the years.


In 1979, he was profiled in a cover story in the weekly magazine Time. That same year saw Pavarotti’s return to the Vienna State Opera after an absence of fourteen years. With Herbert von Karajan conducting, Pavarotti sang Manrico in Il trovatore.

Pavarotti was also awarded his first Grammy in 1979 as Best Classical Vocal Solo for his – Hits From Lincoln Center album which featured some of his best known arias to this point in his career. These included Turandot/Nessun Dorma, Rigoletto/La Donna E Mobile and Aida/Celeste Aida

Here is a slightly later recording of Celeste Aida. Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi with the Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in Egypt it was first performed at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House in December 1871. It is an opera that is performed around the world and has been performed over 1000 times since the late 19th century.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Luciano set up The Pavarotti International Voice Competition for young singers. He had got his start in his career by winning a competition in Reggio Emilia in Italy with the prize being to sing Rodolfo in La boheme. Usually classical competions were for instrumentalists and this new project by Pavarotti was one of the largest in the world for vocalists.

Those auditions took place in Modena, Italy, Luciano’s hometown as well as in New York and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Aside from Luciano Pavarotti, the judges for the finals include Antonio Tonini, a coach at La Scala of Milan who attended all the preliminary auditions.

The Academy of Music, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Opera Company of Philadelphia was the venue for the finals for the first competition in 1981 with over 80 finalists selected from 27 countries. For a week the contestants performed for the judges and on the Saturday the winning 17 singers, one tenor and 16 sopranos competed for the ultimate prize of winning the chance to perform in two of the Philadelphia Opera’s spring season’s productions alongside Luciano Pavaroti.

To finish today’s post on the 1970s and to ease us into the 1980s here is one of the peices of music that is most associated with Luciano Pavarotti.. Nessun Dorma recorded in 1980 at the Lincoln Centre.

Nessun Dorma, from Puccini’s “Turandot” is not an easy aria to sing, but Pavarotti sings it with ease and clarity. His vocal tone is transparent and pure. If you watch the video closely you’ll find him totally relaxed which enables him to focus and resonate the difficult melodic line with consistency and without straining his voice. His vocal excellence in this aria cannot be overstated, this is operatic singing at its best.

Note: Vocal tone – is what’s known as the color or timbre of a singing voice. Every voice has a specific color, often referred to as warm, dark, bright or even strident.

Melodic line – a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence. A musical phrase. A melody.

Additional material :

Buy the music of Luciano Pavarotti:

Next week the 1980s and a film role and a selection of performances from Pavarotti’s concerts and opera performances.

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.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect to William

Links to website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

You will find the other posts of the series in this directory.

14 thoughts on “Classical Music with William Price King – Luciano Pavarotti – Part Three

  1. What a treat to hear that legend sing again as though he never left us. Nessun Dorma, so powerful, still giving me goosebumps and O Sole Mio took me right back to Italy. Love this series!!! 🙂 xoxo ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Sunday Round Up – Cooking with love, First book love, Request for Christmas Tree photos | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Pingback: Classical Music with William Price King – Luciano Pavarotti – Part Three | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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