Aired Wednesday September 10th, 2008 at 8:03 pm
GREAT PERFORMANCES marks the first anniversary of the passing of one of opera's most cherished voices with "Pavarotti: A Life in Seven Arias," airing Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at 8 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. Combining archival and rarely seen performance footage with fresh reminiscences by friends and colleagues, the musical feast offers a concise yet compelling look at the tenor's meteoric career trajectory. From soccer-playing son of a Modena, Italy, baker to onstage partner of "La Stupenda," world-renowned soprano Joan Sutherland, from media darling to truly one-of-a-kind superstar, it is a story written as large as the great one himself.
But, as all agree, it was the voice, with its unique golden timbre, that will be the enduring legacy. His recordings of the 1960s, '70s and early '80s offer the definitive performances of the great romantic operas - Rigoletto, Turandot, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Fille du Régiment among them.
"I think that Luciano had the sun in his voice," says fellow Three Tenors partner José Carreras. "It was such a bright, pure sound." "One of the greatest ever," adds the illustrious third member of the trio, Plácido Domingo.
Assembled by acclaimed filmmaker David Thompson (GREAT PERFORMANCES' "Busby Berkley: Through the Roof," "Copland's America"), Carreras and Domingo are joined by sopranos Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé and Renata Scotto; PR whiz Herbert Breslin, credited with creating the Pavarotti Phenomenon; and Terri Robson, the tenor's manager from 2000 until his death. Also on hand: delightful young Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who tells of dialing the maestro on his cell, moments before stepping on stage at Covent Garden to attempt the killer high C aria, "Pour mon âme," made famous there by his idol 40 years earlier.
"I said I feel a certain emotion, and he said, ‘Great, I know you are there. You're gonna do great.'"
Valiant to the end - it was pancreatic cancer that felled him at age 71 - Luciano Pavarotti faced his "charmed" life with a clear eye and hard-won honesty. "We go on the stage every night with the same feeling: we are afraid," he told an interviewer in 1979. "If somebody tells you (otherwise), the man is a liar."
Others offering remembrances and observations are tenor Kim Begley; conductor Richard Bonynge, husband of Joan Sutherland; critic Rupert Christiansen; director John Copley; former Royal Opera House wig and make-up master Ron Freeman; and critic Norman Lebrecht.
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