Today, September 6, 2007, one of the best tenors in history, Luciano Pavarotti, died at 71.As a small tribute, we have compiled a list of 8 facts about his life you might not have known.
1He raised more than US$1.5 million for refugees worldwide (more than any other individual in the world!)
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 US$1.5 million, more than any other individual.Other awards he received for charity work 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.In 1998, he was appointed the United Nation’s Messenger of Peace, using his fame to raise awareness of UN issues, including the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS, child rights, urban slums and poverty.He performed at benefit concerts to raise money for victims of tragedies such as an earthquake in December 1988 that killed 25,000 people in northern Armenia.He was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales. They raised money for the elimination of land mines worldwide. Pavarotti annually hosted the “Pavarotti and Friends” charity concerts in his home town of Modena in Italy, joining with singers from all parts of the music industry to raise money for several worthy UN causes. 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 Center 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.
2He was called “The King of Cancellations”
Pavarotti’s rise to stardom was not without occasional difficulties. He earned a reputation as “The King of Cancellations” by frequently backing out of performances, and his unreliable nature led to poor relationships with some opera houses.This was brought into focus in 1989 when Ardis Krainik of the Lyric Opera of Chicago severed the house’s 15-year relationship with the tenor. Over an eight-year period, Pavarotti had cancelled 26 out of 41 scheduled appearances at the Lyric and the decisive move by Krainik to ban him for life was well-noted throughout the opera world, after the performer walked away from a season premiere less than two weeks before rehearsals began, saying pain from a sciatic nerve required two months of treatment.
3He almost gave up singing
The first six years of study in music resulted in nothing more tangible than a few recitals, all in small towns and all without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal chords causing a “disastrous” concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. 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.”
4He was going to be a Soccer Player
After he graduated from the Schola Magistrale, Luciano faced the dilemma of a career choice. He was interested in pursuing a career as a professional soccer player, but his mother convinced him to train as a teacher. He subsequently taught in an elementary school for two years but finally allowed his interest in music to win out.
5He debuted as an actor in 1982
Pavarotti’s one venture into film, a romantic comedy called Yes, Giorgio (1982), was roundly panned by the critics. He can be seen to better advantage in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s adaptation of Rigoletto for television, released that same year, or in his more than 20 live opera performances taped for television between 1978 and 1994, most of them with the Metropolitan Opera, and most available on DVD.
6He had difficulties following orchestral parts
In 2002 Pavarotti split with his manager of 36 years Herbert Breslin. The breakup, which was acrimonious, was followed in 2004 with the publication of a book by Breslin entitled The King & I, seen by many as sensationalist and largely critical of the singer’s acting (in opera), his ability to read music and learn parts, and of his personal conduct, although acknowledging their mutual success. In an interview in 2005 with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC, Pavarotti rejected the allegation that he could not read music, although acknowledging he sometimes had difficulty following orchestral parts.
7He is the only opera singer ever on Saturday Night Live
On December 12, 1998 he became the first (and, so far, only) opera singer to perform on Saturday Night Live, singing alongside Vanessa L. Williams.
8He married his former personal assistant
On 13 December 2003 he married his former personal assistant, Nicoletta Mantovani, with whom he already had a daughter, Alice.