Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti was an only child, born in Modena, Italy on 12 October 1935. His father was a baker and a singer, and his mother a cigar factory worker. Early influences included exposure to the recordings of Caruso, Gigli, Martinelli and Schipa, and singing in a local church choir. At the age of nineteen he began serious study in Modena, with tenor Arrigo Polo and later with Ettore Campogalliani. During the 1950s he gave a few recitals locally, none of them paid, and decided to give up singing when a nodule developed on his vocal chords. The nodule disappeared and, as the singer 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'.
His opera début came in April 1961, singing Rodolfo in La bohème at Reggio Emilia. His US début was in February 1965 with the Greater Miami Opera, and shortly afterwards, he first appeared at La Scala in La bohème, but it was in 1972, in Donizetti's La fille du régiment at the Met in New York, that the singer made his major breakthrough leading to regular TV broadcasts and recordings.
In the 1990s his rise to stardom was completed when his rendition of 'Nessun Dorma' ('None shall sleep') from Turandot was taken up by the sports world to become the theme song of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. This was followed by the successful 'Three Tenors' concert with José Carreras and Plácido Domingo in Rome, which became the biggest selling classical recording ever.
There were difficulties too in his career. He was dubbed 'King of Cancellations' due to his unreliable nature, and was banned for life from the Lyric Opera of Chicago when he walked away from a season première less than a fortnight before the start of rehearsals. There was also an acrimonious split with Herbert Breslin, Pavarotti's long-term manager, resulting in Breslin's 2004 book The King & I, which was critical of Pavarotti's personal conduct, his acting and his ability to read music.
The final dates of the tenor's 2006 farewell tour were cancelled when he had to undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer. Following the operation he was treated with five courses of chemotherapy. He hadn't appeared in public since the operation, and cancelled various scheduled appearances.
On 7 August 2007 he was admitted to the Policlinico hospital in Modena, Italy, after suffering from pneumonia, diagnosed during a family seaside holiday. He was kept in hospital for tests and then released on 25 August.
Pavarotti died in the early hours of 6 September 2007 at home in Modena, Italy, aged seventy-one.
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Ensemble. A Real Surprise - Celso Albelo hits Venice as Nemorino in Donizetti's 'L'Elisir d'Amore', by Giuseppe Pennisi
Personal Charm - A tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, who died this week, from Tess Crebbin
Superb Writing - Kelly Ferjutz enjoys the tale of Luciano Pavarotti's rise to fame