Famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti succumbed to pancreatic cancer earlier today. He was 71 years old.
I have numerous recordings of operas with Pavarotti, but even though he began his career singing the bel canto repertoire (Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti), and doing it beautifully (his rendition of "una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore is superb), I think my favorites have to be his Puccini protagonists: Rodolfo in La Boheme, Calàf in Turandot, and Cavaradossi in Tosca. Those performances (from the late '80s, I believe) have to be some of the best work he ever did in roles that suited his mature voice perfectly.
The Youtube clip below is from a 1998 performance in Paris and even though the voice is beginning to show some signs of age, it's still a great performance of "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.
Several of the music blogs I read have additional comments and stories to share:
Sequenza21 has a YouTube video of an earlier performance (maybe from the 70's?) in duet with Soprano Joan Sutherland (an early Pavarotti supporter) singing "Veranno a te sull'aure" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Quite stunning, and if you've not heard the early Pavarotti, a real contrast with his singing in the 80s and 90's
Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Notes has links to a couple more videos as well as some personal recollections from a public radio personality.
Alex Ross has some personal notes as well as some more YouTube links, including one from a 1979 performance of La Boheme ("Che gelida manina" of course).
Pavarotti officially retired several years ago because of the progression of the cancer that eventually killed him, but for some time before that he had begun to limit his performances somewhat. The strain of decades of singing was beginning to take its toll. At the peak of his career, he was one of the giants of the operatic world. His work will be celebrated along with the other great tenors of history (Lanza, Caruso, Bergonzi, Corelli, Gedda, Bjoerling, di Stefano, etc) for years to come.
Arrivederci, Luciano. Grazie per la musica!