This morning my mom told me that famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has died. He was one of those rare artists that had such a warm vibe about him. I don't think I ever saw a picture or video of him where he wasn't smiling. I don't know much about famous opera singers, but I have loved opera ever since I saw a performance of Puccini's La Boheme on PBS when I was 13. I think I also am rather sentimental about opera because my great-grandfather was a little known opera singer during Caruso's time, and they say, had Caruso's style not been so popular, my ancestor would have been famous.
Pavarotti was one of kind not only because of the sheer drama and power of his voice, but also because he was so charismatic and accessible outside of the opera world. A common criticism of opera in the United States is that it, like classical ballet, or the symphony, is an upper middle class entertainment, inaccessible to most of society due to high ticket prices, fancy dress codes, and in opera's case, whole stories in a foreign language.
There have been many recent attempts to "humanize" opera, if you want to call it that...like adding electronic subtitle screens above the stage, RENT, Elton John's revamp of Aida, or even having free outdoor showings of Metroplitan Opera performances via satellite feed.
Whether any of this will boost a new generation's interest or ticket sales I cannot say. But I can say that unlike Caruso, Callas, Sutherland, or even today's Bocelli, Pavarotti is a name the whole musical world knows. This may be because he was one of the first opera singers to branch out in a major way into collaborations with other non-opera or non-classical musicians.
Looking only on YouTube, I found Pavoratti singing with James Brown, Barry White, Queen, and U2 to name a few. It was Pavoratti's accessibility and willingness to participate in these kinds of musical endeavors (not to mention sing the 1990 World Cup theme) that opened the rest of the musical world to him and opera to the rest of the musical world.
And I give him credit (along with Sarah Brightman though she's not an opera singer) as the reason why Opera Babes, Il Divo, Charlotte Church, and other pop-opera acts have been even possible given the popularity of trash like "My Humps" and Clay Aiken ::shudder::.
I was quite shocked that Pavarotti had died, as all the press about him had said that although he was ill, he was remaining positive. His wife even seemed upbeat and sure about his recovery. Whether expected or no, he will be sorely missed for the international treasure that he was.
Riposi In Pace Maestro.