It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured some of the music legends and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.
We have reached the end of the story about the incredible rise to fame and stunning career of Luciano Pavarotti. Today it is time to pay this wonderful tenor tribute as we follow him through the last years of his life. He won awards and thrilled millions with his unique performance style but until his death, very few knew about the health issues that took their toll on his vitality and his ability to perform
“Music making is the most joyful activity possible, the most perfect expression of any emotion” Luciano Pavarotti
The new millennium did not start on a high note for Pavarotti as the Italian tax authorities took him to court on tax fraud charges. Although he lived in Monte Carlo he still owned a great many properties in Italy and he was accused of owing almost five million dollars in back tax. This carried a prison sentence of as much as eighteen months in prison. Thankfully he was acquitted and all charges dropped.
This difficult, and what must have been humiliating episode, was offset by the continued support of his fans and also by the awards and honours he received in these years. This included Kennedy Center Honors in 2001.
Following on from the scrutiny into his business affairs, Luciano’s personal life became the subject of public interest when he left his wife Adua after over thirty years of marriage in 2003. It was revealed that he was now living with his assistant with whom he already had a young daughter. Once his divorce was finalised he married Nicoletta Mantovani and in tribute to their relationship he released his final compilation which was his only ‘crossover’ album.
Ti Adoro featured thirteen songs which were written and produced by Michele Centonze who had been part of the production team for the Pavarotti and Friends concerts between 1998 and 2000.
Luciano described his album as a wedding gift to his new wife Nicoletta.
In the Il Canto video one can easily see how versatile Pavarotti was. The modern Italian pop style of that day suited him well and the soft musical arrangements did not compete with his voice, leaving him free to just have “fun” in a lighter vocal medium.
Also in 2003 Luciano Pavarotti was made a Commander of Monaco’s Order of Cultural Merit. This was not to be his only award in these last years as his work for charity was also recognised.
Pavarotti had annually hosted the Pavarotti and Friends charity concerts in his home town of Modena, inviting top artists from the music industy to join him in raising awareness and money for several United Nation causes. Artists included B.B. King, Andrea Bocelli, Bono, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, Elton John, Queen, Sting and the Spice Girls.
Concerts were held for War Child, and victims of war and civil unrest in Bosnia, Guatemala, Kosovo and Iraq. After the war in Bosnia, he financed and established the Pavarotti Music Centre in the southern city of Mostar to offer Bosnia’s artists the opportunity to develop their skills. For these contributions, the city of Sarajevo named him an honorary citizen in 2006.
In 2001, Pavarotti received the Nansen Medal from the UN High Commission for Refugees for his efforts raising money on behalf of refugees worldwide. Through benefit concerts and volunteer work, he has raised more than any other individual.
Other honors he received include the Freedom of London Award and The Red Cross Award for Services to Humanity, for his work in raising money for that organization, and the 1998 MusiCares Person of the Year, given to humanitarian heroes by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Unfortunately the awards for recognition were accompanied by continued criticism of his performance skills in a tell all book written in 2004 by one of his former managers. In The King & I, Herbert Breslin one of his former managers, was critical of Luciano’s acting abilities when performing opera; also his ability to read music and learn new roles. These criticisms were addressed by Pavarotti in his 2005 interview with Jeremy Paxman for the BBC, where he was adamant that he could read music although he admitted that he did not read orchestral scores.
In December 2004 at the age of 69, Pavarotti announced his farewell tour beginning in 2005 and finishing in 2006. He intended to celebrate his forty years on the stage by appearing in many of his old venues and include new locations on this forty city tour.
In March 2005 Pavarotti underwent neck surgery to repair two vertebrae and further back surgery in early 2006. Following this it was clear that the great man was physically and vocally frailer. However, he received a rapturous welcome from his devoted fans as he began his tour, including at his last performance of 2005 in Taiwan.
Despite being very ill at the start of 2006, Pavarotti was approached by the Winter Olympics committee to sing during the opening ceremony for the winter games on February 10th. His performance received the longest and loudest ovation of the night from the thousands of international athletes, officials and guests. Little did they know at the time that there was a story behind the performance.
Pavarotti *lip synched his performance. Though his voice was in great shape the bitter cold made a live performance impossible. Also Pavarotti was in severe pain with his spinal problems. Consequently, it was decided in advance that the only way to do this performance was to pre-record. So, in this video the orchestra pretends to play, the conductor (Leone Magiera) pretends to conduct and Pavarotti pretends to sing. None the less, this is a great recording and a tribute to a great artist at the end of his career. Video credit Olympics
Note. lip synch is a technical term for matching lip movements with pre-recorded sung or spoken vocals that the listener hears.
While continuing with his international “farewell tour”, Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2006. He underwent surgery and the tumour was completely removed but it did obviously result in the cancellations of most of his planned concerts in the USA and Europe. His health declinded further following the surgery and he was forced to cancel the tour completely.
He died at his home in Modena on September 6th, 2007 just before his 72nd birthday surrounded by his family.
His manager, Terri Robson, issued this statement, “The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness”.
Pavarotti’s funeral was held in Modena Cathedral. His ceremony was an international event attended by political heads of state, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, celebrities and over fifty thousand music lovers from all over the world. The funeral procession wound its way through the streets of Modena, crowded with mourners and his coffin was laid to rest in the Pavarotti family crypt. The funeral was televised around the world by CNN and Opera Houses including the Vienna State Opera and London’s Royal Opera House published tributes.
He posthumously received the Italy-USA Foundation’s America Award in 2013.
Without a doubt, Nessun Dorma is the aria which sums up all that is great about Pavarotti.
The whole world knows him thanks to his knock-out, rock star performance of this piece. But for me, personally, my favorite tenor aria is Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme, my all time favorite opera.
Rodolfo, the leading tenor in this opera, must be youthful, passionate, warm, and sensitive and no one has done it better than Pavarotti in my book. He was always elegant and brilliant in this role. In this video from a performance at the Met in 1977 you’ll find an amazing Pavarotti, completely convincing as he sings “Che Gelida Manina” with that unforced, open-throated quality -*lasciarsi andare – that made him the greatest tenor of modern times. He shares the stage with Renata Scotto as “Mimi.”Vincenzo Moscato
Note: lasciarsi andare – to let go
Additional material : Wikipedia
Buy the music of Luciano Pavarotti:Amazon
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
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