Ma nun me lassà, Nun darme stu turmiento!
Luciano Pavarotti died last night of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71.
Among my “classical” recordings, the original Three Tenors concert holds a special place, one that has survived nearly every iPod reorganization I’ve undergone. What I find most fascinating about that recording is the marked contrast between the three stars, and just how much Pavarotti stands out. I’ve thought about the reasons why that is, and I think it comes down to his restraint in the use of vibrato. Whenever I hear a singer whose long notes are more warble than tone, I wince. I recognize the physical skill that goes into producing the sound, but the result is actually uncomfortable to me. This is why there’s hardly a soprano I can stand; they all seem to exist solely to find long notes to strangle.
Pavarotti, in contrast, used vibrato as a shading on his notes. At their core, they were long and pure and steady. Yes, at times he went for all-out vibrato, but it always seemed to make sense when he did. He wasn’t warbling to show that he could do it; he did it when and how it was right. That, coupled with the sheer power of his voice, creates an emotional punch that I’m powerless to comprehend but joyful to behold.
I listened to some Pavarotti this morning, and though his heartbreaking renditions of “Nessun Dorma” and “Torna A Surriento” have always misted me up a little, this time there was an extra tightness in my throat.
Part of me hopes that nobody is asked to sing at his memorial services; or, if anyone is, that they turn down the invitation. Nobody could do the job as well as he would have.
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!