Luciano Pavarotti: Discover More About The Best-Selling Classical Artist Of All Time

Luciano Pavarotti, the world’s best loved tenor, is the best-selling classical artist of all time. Discover more about his life and music.

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Luciano Pavarotti photo
Luciano Pavarotti. Photo: Decca/Christian Steiner

Luciano Pavarotti was born on October 12, 1935, in Modena in Italy. He originally worked selling insurance before pursuing his love of singing. His father, Fernando, was a baker by trade but also a talented tenor who performed at the cathedral in Modena at weekends until the end of his life. Fernando once said to his son: “Imagine the career you would have had if you had my voice.”

The young Pavarotti greatly admired legendary tenor Mario Lanza. He said: “In my teens, I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in my mirror.” In his youth, he joined Modena’s Rossini Choir, and in 1959 the ensemble competed in the International Eisteddfod in Wales. They won first prize.

Pavarotti on film

Pavarotti only starred in one film – Yes, Giorgio – a film the tenor himself later declared “terrible.”

In 2019 he was the subject of a documentary film, directed by Ron Howard: Pavarotti. The film features footage of Pavarotti performing, interviews with the great singer as well as interviews with key figures from his life.

PAVAROTTI - Official Trailer - HD

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Pavarotti’s career takes flight

Luciano Pavarotti made his professional debut in Puccini’s La Bohème at Reggio Emilia, Italy in 1961. Three years later, he signed with the recording company Decca and recorded his first EP for the label. In 1965 he made his American debut at Miami Opera in Lucia di Lammermoor with soprano Dame Joan Sutherland.

King of the High C’s

In 1972 Pavarotti was performing in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at the Metropolitan Opera when he sang the now famous ‘Ah Mes Amis!’ aria, which includes eight high Cs (and an optional ninth!). His performance stunned the audience, who demanded 17 curtain calls from the tenor. Ever after, the tenor was known by the nickname ‘King of the High C’s’.

Donizetti: La fille du régiment / Act 1 - Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!

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Pavarotti and food

Pavarotti was passionate about food: he enjoyed a plate of pasta before rehearsals, crediting the food with his success. Later in his career, he would take an entire kitchen with him on tour to be set up in his hotel suite. He would also take supplies of rice, pasta, parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and sparkling red Lambrusco wine.

Pavarotti and The Three Tenors

The Three Tenors brought together Pavarotti with two fellow tenors – José Carreras and Plácido Domingo. The trio first performed together on the eve of the 1990 Football World Cup Final in Rome, which was broadcast around the world to 800 million people. The concert was recorded and released on Decca: it went on to sell over 15 million copies, becoming the fastest and biggest-selling classical record of all time and won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 1991.

To mark 30 years since their legendary Rome performance The Three Tenors – 30th Anniversary Edition, a special CD/DVD set featuring the original concert CD and a DVD of the complete performance, including a “making of” documentary, has been released.

The Three Tenors - In Concert, Rome 1990

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Pavarotti the celebrity

As Pavarotti’s fame grew, he became friends with some of the most famous people of the day, from Princess Diana to Nelson Mandela. He wasn’t afraid to stray from classical music and collaborated with pop stars, including The Spice Girls, Bono, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Liza Minnelli.

Pavarotti’s death

Luciano Pavarotti died at home in Modena in September 2007 of pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old. His funeral was attended by 700 guests, including many of his famous friends. After the service, there was a flypast with planes painting the sky in the colors of the Italian flag, while a recording of Pavarotti singing ‘Nessun Dorma’ played in the piazza.

He was survived by his second wife and four daughters.

The Three Tenors – 30th Anniversary Edition is out now and can be bought here.

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