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Luciano Pavarotti discusses performing

BROADCAST: Nov. 20, 1975 | DURATION: 00:27:33


Instead of being called "The King of the High C's," Pavarotti would rather be known as "The King of the Bel Canto". Pavarotti said he didn't have the greatest of enthusiasm prior to performing his first concert. However, it ended up being a phenomenal experience, he said. A great singer, Pavarotti added, is very human and romantic. One needs to feel what one's singing and lastly, one must be a beautiful person inside.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel My guest this morning his a remarkable tenor, one of the finest of our day Luciano Pavarotti who was Edgardo and the current Lyric production of "Lucia di Lammermoor" with Joan Sutherland. He's been described by a number of critics as the king of the high C's. Your thoughts on hearing that Mr. Pavarotti.

Luciano Pavarotti Well I don't think 1975 is anymore time for king. But suppose is a this time and you suppose you want to use these name for me. I prefer to be called the king of the bel canto because in fact is more of the bel canto than the top that I use generally singing. I have an easy top and I hope this is not a defect, but I don't want people is distract from my singing.

Studs Terkel You are the easy top. We'll, we'll after this message we'll hear some of the songs the arias and a song of Luciano Pavarotti who also takes part in concerts more of this later. But the matter of the easy top his own facility the ease of a true artist that makes it seem so easy and yet remarkable giftedness and discipline is there too. In a moment the program the music and reflections of Pavarotti primo Pavarotti in a moment after this message.

Studs Terkel As Nemorino the peasant with all those dreams and love potions and frustrations and the "Cavatina" from Donizetti's "Elixir of Love."

Luciano Pavarotti It is like you like you hear, it is pure bel canto song and like you know this role is one of the most important role of my career. If I can choose two role to it it to put my career in [reserve?] let's say choose this, Nemorino, and the last one I have sing in the open night in San Francisco last September who is "Il Trovatore." That is the two opposite role for a tenor. I think not easy to do in the same time--

Studs Terkel I'm thinking--

Luciano Pavarotti Do a role like that. Nemorino one side--

Studs Terkel And Manrico--

Luciano Pavarotti And Manrico on the other. And they think, I don't know, I think it was both very good. [Unintelligible] to say--

Studs Terkel What's remarkable here is the light the comic opera funny Nemorido, Nemorino kind of a clown but funny and endearing--

Luciano Pavarotti Well the life is a little like that. I am a little like that. I think if we cannot laugh at ourself the life is very boring. In an other word if you don't have enough sense of humor to live it's not is not so great. Especially in our in our in our business in our profession.

Studs Terkel I mean so many are so serious deadly serious.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah, well.

Studs Terkel But you said something just now about life being the humor that we suddenly become funny ourselves, sense of humor.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah, sure,

Studs Terkel At the same time it heightens the tragic role [that you?] when you're Manrico the troubadour who's so ill-fated.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah.

Studs Terkel Then it makes the tragic role you do stand out in relief.

Luciano Pavarotti Well it's so, the music is so great you don't have any difficult to being inside there at that kind of role because we don't need the big expression just the first note of the music give to you everything you need in "Trovatore" and for example in "Pagliacci" for example in "Carmen" and these kind of dramatic just to hear a chord of the music put you in the feeling of the [personado? personality?] Is totally different and you have to do with the same instrument--

Studs Terkel The

Luciano Pavarotti You cannot change, yes this cannot change much.

Studs Terkel The voice-- there's something you said before we hear you do Don Jose "Carmen" "The Flower Song" and the contrast. You said something about the first note. You mean you sort of, you take

Luciano Pavarotti Si, with a [singing syllables]. It's already it's very sad. You hear immediately the [dead?] the the the sadness and the the drama inside.

Studs Terkel And that something is going to happen sad.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah,

Studs Terkel This is the foreboding song.

Luciano Pavarotti Sure.

Studs Terkel This is when what? Carmen is telling Don Jose she no longer cares for

Luciano Pavarotti him. Yeah.

Studs Terkel And now he sings--

Luciano Pavarotti He sing "The Flower

Studs Terkel "The Flower

Luciano Pavarotti To say how much the flower for him.

Studs Terkel From Nemorino to Don Jose the same voice the same instrument the same artist, Luciano Pavarotti. This is what you're talking about isn't it?

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah. Quite different. The feeling is quite different of course. They talk about love, both these song, but in one song, the first one you can hear the happy hand. In the second one you can hear the tragic hand.

Studs Terkel Who is who is Pavarotti, Luciano?

Luciano Pavarotti I don't know. You have to tell me.

Studs Terkel [laughter]. Well we begin, Modena. You were a young boy in Modena, Italy.

Luciano Pavarotti Well my city is a little provincial city close to Bologna, between Florence and Milan. A little sophisticated city we think to be important. Of course we are not. But we are important for one thing, we make Maserati and Ferrari cars. For these reasons we are very important, no doubt. The music there arrive [three months a year?]. And if you want to hear something better and during the year you go to Milan you go to Bologna you go to Florence who is practically one hour and a half by car and 20 minute to Bologna and then the people can have the best music you can have in Italy.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking you're from the north, middle-north--

Luciano Pavarotti Middle-north, yeah.

Studs Terkel Between Bologna and Milan. We have Bologna, city of the university. Yes

Luciano Pavarotti Yes [always?].

Studs Terkel Of great culture.

Luciano Pavarotti Very famous, it was famous in the past. The school was call "la dottore" as being full of doctrine and and they have a phenomenal phenomenal university. It's very very--

Studs Terkel So this is rich cultural heritage. And then in between and up to the north is course is this highly industrial very 20th century--

Luciano Pavarotti Great great industry. We have the industry age of the ceramic. We have the industry of lana.

Studs Terkel Of linen.

Luciano Pavarotti No lana. Lana is the pullover.

Studs Terkel Oh.

Luciano Pavarotti Well, well, [Italian]. Anyway. [Don't worry

Studs Terkel Pullover. Sweaters.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes!

Studs Terkel Sweaters.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes, yes. These things. We have another industry of the, we call industry of the red cherry, of the red fruit [I mean] cherries, strawberry. Is real an industry. Is very rich little city who is of course now [increasing?] like Italian [eye of the world?]. Ceramic for example is very important.

Studs Terkel In this particular environment, in this city came Pavarotti. And how did you, you and music.

Luciano Pavarotti It's very simple let's say [I] was forced to do this.

Studs Terkel How's that?

Luciano Pavarotti Well that is my father had a phenomenal tenor voice till now. My father was born in 1912 and he is a very young man still now.

Studs Terkel I should hope so because I was born in 1912. He's very young man so I agree with

Luciano Pavarotti His birthday his birthday was three days ago. And the he bring [us?] home every record of Bjorling, Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Pertile, Di Stefano and all. I was obliged to hear all these things--

Studs Terkel So you were

Luciano Pavarotti And of course I didn't, I did like little by little and I became a fan, a real fan. And I went to see my city twice Gigli and many time Di Stefano. And it was for me let's say was a normal choice [forced?].

Studs Terkel This was the mother's milk for you--

Luciano Pavarotti Yes, oh yeah, sure.

Studs Terkel Or father's. Is your father a working man or intellectual?

Luciano Pavarotti My father was baker. Made made--

Studs Terkel A baker?

Luciano Pavarotti Yes.

Studs Terkel Now you say--

Luciano Pavarotti He stopped two years ago. He stopped.

Studs Terkel You're saying something very interesting. Your father's a working man.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yeah. Oh

Studs Terkel But the love of music. Love of music.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh sure sure sure sure. He's going to do the next album we will do for the London record is to be called "Sacred Songs" religious song and he's going to sing with me together.

Studs Terkel Your father will?

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes we will do "Panis Angelicus." Two voices.

Studs Terkel Oh that's marvelous.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes.

Studs Terkel But this is interesting. This is part of a tradition, is it not?

Luciano Pavarotti Well let's say let's say--

Studs Terkel The working man and the love of music.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes, but all this is like you say the [choir?] for example, the [choir?] of the city is made from people who have another job, they are not professional singer. They like to go there they go sometimes for not much money but just because they like [unintelligible] do for almost for nothing. But all the cities is like that. I mean the region I mean Emilia is all like that because I remember when I we was kid of 15 we sang the serenade to the to our [girls?] and we sang "Trovatore" instead of a romantic song or something like that. Let's say we are tenor.

Studs Terkel Ten-- Yeah.

Luciano Pavarotti We are tenor definitely.

Studs Terkel Tenors. So we come to Richard Strauss. By the way Luciano Pavarotti records for London that's a marvelous London album. He is singing duets himself in concert, arias and songs as well. We'll come to you and concerts. But "Der Rosenkavalier" you'll be offering some Stra-- You'll be taking part in a Metropolitan tribute

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes yes. The next year in February March is going to be a new production of "Puritani" with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge and in the same time they did ask me to sing the role of Rosenkavalier who is a two minutes and off, like you hear something like that, three minutes. And the tenor for this role supposed to be [paid? played?[ like for another role and this is something very exciting. It's very exciting.

Studs Terkel You set the scene. This is the "Rosenkavalier". There's a sort of gathering here and it's supposed to be funny. It's a take-off.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh

Studs Terkel But becomes very beautiful.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh it's beautiful, beautiful. I don't know why Richard Strauss wrote these pieces because if he wrote the pieces to make fun of the tenor,wWell I don't know if he ever gets the result because so beautiful music.

Studs Terkel Yeah. This is the scene where the Baron Ochs has a party is

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah. Yes.

Studs Terkel And this guy comes out--

Luciano Pavarotti He come very you know very in form, full of [superb?]. Like like he should be an Italian singer.

Studs Terkel And he comes in sort of a take-off.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah.

Studs Terkel It's a character of the Italian, the elegance.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah.

Studs Terkel But, in his kidding, he forgets or maybe he knows the absolute beauty--

Luciano Pavarotti Absolute.

Studs Terkel Of the tenor, in this case Pavarotti, and the song, "Di Rigori."

Luciano Pavarotti "Di Rigori."

Studs Terkel "Di Rigori." So Strauss trying to kid the Italian tenor in a sense glorifies him. Mr. Pavarotti I was thinking of the variety before I asked you before we take a slight pause and ask you about concert singing too. You're working now at the Lyric and of course you've worked before with Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge.

Luciano Pavarotti Ah hah. [Grande?] [unintelligible]

Studs Terkel I suppose working with her is an interesting

Luciano Pavarotti Great experience. Before more than now in the sense now I am unfortunately 40 years old and I have my personality. But when I met them 10, 12 years ago it was a big help for me. Big help. Big

Studs Terkel You say, you say unfortunately 40 years old. This is the beginning!

Luciano Pavarotti Well depends from the point of view.

Studs Terkel No, now comes the richness, does it not? And this very question of age.

Luciano Pavarotti For a boy of twenty I am a very old man.

Studs Terkel [laughter] Now we come to the question of your voice is still rich, very rich, but also isn't the added aspect of your knowledge now. Your knowledge and your wisdom plays a role in your--

Luciano Pavarotti Well I hope to have these this result in another is exactly what a man of 40 want. To have to have the voice who come a little bigger and more important and to have the experience but without forced the voice. This is my dream. I never be forced so I can do a very heavy end and [brown? round?] voice if I want but I don't like. I prefer my voice like like is normally and let the voice come a little bigger by [yourself? herself?].

Studs Terkel You yourself, coming back to beginnings your boyhood. You had many offers you know when you when you first-- but you were waiting were you not?

Luciano Pavarotti I am a very very careful person. I never put to one step without have tried very very hard before and I don't think I am I am surprising anybody. I don't want surprise anybody. I want everything to come come in the right moment. Then is a conquest but is a normal conquest of the human and and vocally development.

Studs Terkel Almost organic

Luciano Pavarotti I think so.

Studs Terkel The growth is organic.

Luciano Pavarotti This is my dream I don't know if I do but this is what I should--

Studs Terkel Beautiful, it appears to be.

Luciano Pavarotti Like.

Studs Terkel In short, not that sudden, Here is the sudden appearance--

Luciano Pavarotti No.

Studs Terkel Of a brilliant young-- Where did he come from? Nowhere.

Luciano Pavarotti No. I don't want this kind of thing.

Studs Terkel No.

Luciano Pavarotti No I don't think is even is, is very dangerous.

Studs Terkel Even in your, long ago you could have gone to La Scala before you did. Isn't it true? But you didn't want to.

Luciano Pavarotti Well they did offer me. I sang an audition in '61 exactly three months after my debut. And they did want me there for to cover for six opera. And I say I can to cover if you give me one performance of these opera of each. And they say we cannot do this because you are very young and I say then I come here when I am older and when I went there I sang 27 performance of "Rigoletto" the first year and the Verdi "Requiem" commemoration of Toscanini, and "Manon," and [opera title] and "Boheme" with [Caballe?] and the other, "The Daughter of Regiment," an Italian version. Beautiful.

Studs Terkel But before that but before that before the break you went elsewhere even Ireland, you went to Dublin.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh everywhere. Oh yes, Dublin.

Studs Terkel Dublin.

Luciano Pavarotti Dublin I went to--

Studs Terkel Glyndebourne.

Luciano Pavarotti Glyndebourne. I went to the Covent Garden. Everywhere.

Studs Terkel We'll resume with Luciano Pavarotti's reflections and of course more of his voice and music and another development. His work as a concert singer in a moment after this message. Resuming what you were saying [unintelligible]--

Luciano Pavarotti Just from these words on I understand

Studs Terkel Oh I should point out this is what--

Luciano Pavarotti But this is very interesting. We are talking about this now.

Studs Terkel Let me, we better explain that to the audience.

Luciano Pavarotti Where he is the man, they say. [reading aloud in Italian] we were never found any more. Seems to be finished, beautiful.

Studs Terkel We better explain this, it's, I shouldn't, this is something, I gave Mr. Pavarotti a gift. This is the Italian translation of "Division Street America" put out by my Italian publishers, [name of publishers] and is reading about the people in the book. The ordinary average people.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah.

Studs Terkel And that's what you're reading there. So that's for you sir.

Luciano Pavarotti Thank

Studs Terkel I hope you like it.

Luciano Pavarotti Great,

Studs Terkel And now we come to Pavarotti, and now Handel. Your repertoires are broad but now we come to songs.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh well it is, let's say it is the second aspect of my of my career and my artistic career and is the concert a concert is something I try to do two, three years ago. I don't say [joking?]. I just I just try with not great enthusiasm because I didn't know how I am be able to be in front of the public. That was for me a phenomenal experience. I think is to be in front of these public without any light, without makeup, without movement, without orchestra, without colleague, without duet, without anything like that. You must be really at the maximum concentration to go to them and you can go to them every where they are: in the little city around the world, in the big city, and you drive to the opera many people who doesn't know anything about. And this is the reason because I like to do concert and I will always do concert even if are much heavier than the opera. At the end of the concert I need two days of rest.

Studs Terkel Really?

Luciano Pavarotti Oh no doubt.

Studs Terkel Because here it's you--

Luciano Pavarotti It's 20 pieces of singing in one hour and then off--

Studs Terkel By yourself!

Luciano Pavarotti By yourself.

Studs Terkel Except for the accompanist, that is.

Luciano Pavarotti Well the accompanist is something good but cannot help you much because you cannot rest between the pieces.

Studs Terkel But it's not--

Luciano Pavarotti He cannot play piano by himself.

Studs Terkel And so it's concentration, 20-- Also you're not singing to somebody, not a role in an opera.

Luciano Pavarotti No,

Studs Terkel It's you and the song.

Luciano Pavarotti You say how do you sing three songs from the beginning then you go a little, just go back and you sang three more and then three more than three more, then aria, cabaletta then and all together generally with intermission the recital is almost two hours. And in these two hours if you take away the 20 minutes of the intermission and let's say to be optimistic, twenty minutes of applause, you have one hour and still one hour and 20 minutes to sing.

Studs Terkel So--

Luciano Pavarotti It's very long. I think don't exist something like

Studs Terkel Here is--

Luciano Pavarotti Without [unintelligible], without any--

Studs Terkel Here is your Handel. Why don't you describe this I said

Luciano Pavarotti Well "Care Selve" is a phenomenal romanza from "Atalanta." I think one of the most gorgeous piece of music I, you can ever hear.

Studs Terkel As Pavarotti was saying of beauty, of course the beauty-- We're talking about something here just in hearing that song about the poetry in people sometimes unexpressed. And this is what you seek even when you do a role of an ordinary person or someone who is regal but within each that poetry.

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah. Well it is the reason because I am doing this beautiful profession who is singing. I think to be able to go through the public you must be convinced yourself. You must be you must be a human being inside and you must be a person who really feel what he's saying and go through the public. In an other word you have to be a normal person very very romantic very let's say human.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking your father, you see, you said a lot of your friends are like your father. Your father the baker. He's a man who works as a good craftsman.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes.

Studs Terkel But there's the

Luciano Pavarotti muse. Oh

Studs Terkel This poetry and music

Luciano Pavarotti Sure, sure. The great great poetry. My father is a man really who everybody knows him, love him because for him he's a human feeling and the love of music and love of people. Even myself, all the people I have around are very very beautiful person inside. I cannot stand with people they are beautiful inside. I don't want to know what they do in their life. It's not my business but to be to be beautiful inside is something I really really like very much.

Studs Terkel This comes out your singing.

Luciano Pavarotti Well this is this is something that will give me the power to go on on a career like that who is more and more difficult. And it is a forza, the strong--

Studs Terkel Force,

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah. And what you have right here in this book mostly gifted of compassion I think is me.

Studs Terkel Oh well that's, I get--

Luciano Pavarotti You get, you get, you get the point.

Studs Terkel Well I'm just describing something to Mr. Pavarotti. OK, this is the Italian translation of-- So I said, He's got the gift of voice but more that plus a gift of compassion. And that comes through. So we come to "I due Foscari."

Luciano Pavarotti "I due Foscari." Beautiful music. Early Verdi. The man is coming out from the prison and can't imagine what he's going to see. Venice in all her phenomenal beautiful splendor. Still he's a little afraid because he think Venice doesn't like him very much. And he's right of course but still has Venice in front of him.

Studs Terkel And I suppose Verdi, you think about you again and Italy. Verdi I suppose representing what throughout freedom and liberation--

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes.

Studs Terkel Almost the theme of most all his operas.

Luciano Pavarotti Oh sure, in fact that in fact like you know the Italian people used to sing "Verdi," is mean Verdi spelling the letters in Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia. [Unintelligible]--

Studs Terkel When they were fighting the Australian, the Habsburg--

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes,

Studs Terkel Repression.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes.

Studs Terkel So this is this is reflective, is it not?

Luciano Pavarotti Yeah.

Studs Terkel Not only Verdi but the theme of liberation is here.

Luciano Pavarotti Always.

Studs Terkel That's beautiful. Molto bene.

Luciano Pavarotti Molto bene.

Studs Terkel That was almost 10 years ago.

Luciano Pavarotti I don't know 10 but this was my first album.

Studs Terkel That was the first album.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes. It's touching me.

Studs Terkel Yeah?

Luciano Pavarotti To hear some something can be done better, something this is done very well.

Studs Terkel All the time, some years ago this was. Here are you in the meantime, your own wisdom--

Luciano Pavarotti Oh yes.

Studs Terkel Your own

Luciano Pavarotti Sure sure

Studs Terkel Part of your weaponry.

Luciano Pavarotti Sure sure sure. This is very beautiful to hear this record on a distance of age here really. Because you go back in the time.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking in the beginning you were talking about the two aspects of man, of human beings: the comedy the tragic, just as we heard now tragic powerful song. [I'm thinking of?] "Don Pasquale." Now we

Luciano Pavarotti Now "Don Pasquale" is a serenade, the serenade you do with the girl and I want dedicate the serenade to all the girl of America.

Studs Terkel [Laughter]

M97 A


Studs Terkel That's the serenade to all the girls of America from Luciano Pavarotti. From him and from "Don Pasquale." So I was thinking, the variety of the roles you do. Is there one, Luciano, Mr. Pavarotti, is there one role that you were thinking of, you haven't done yet that you would, is on your mind?

Luciano Pavarotti Well, let's say I am 40 and September 12 of this year was my my preferred role was "Trovatore" in the open night of San Francisco season and I have done what I did want. Of course I have many other role I will do. But the dream is really "Trovatore." One of the role I would like to do more than everything and I feel very much this is "Cavalleria" and "Pagliacci" because is for me two of the most beautiful and important opera ever ever written and so impressive on the stage. And so true. Verismo. And the one if my wife prefer opera, the other is my prefer opera. And in honor of my wife I will sing both these opera. But wait a second. Wait a little time.

Studs Terkel Turiddu and Canio.

Luciano Pavarotti Five, five, four years, five.

Studs Terkel Two. Turiddu and Canio,

Luciano Pavarotti Yes. Turiddu and Canio are is really a dream of for me to do this. Like, I think we will record the next year "Cavalleria" and the following year, "Pagliacci." Separately, and after a while we will do on the stage in let's say four years. Coming year even in April for a recital by myself.

Studs Terkel Oh you are?

Luciano Pavarotti Yes.

Studs Terkel It would be a recital?

Luciano Pavarotti Yes, would be a recital.

Studs Terkel So there'll be Handel--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Studs Terkel And there'll be

Luciano Pavarotti A new program and--

Studs Terkel We look forward to

Luciano Pavarotti We have here last year, and I hope to have the same the same hot public I did last time.

Studs Terkel Same hot public.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes I love this very much this kind of public and Chicago deserve everything of the best in the world because really the public here is something.

Studs Terkel They got it [in you?]. You know I was thinking what better way to end it than with "Vesti la giuppa" from "Pagliacci" because here is the fusion. At the beginning, remember Nemorino and then Don Jose. You spoke of the humor the clown quality and the serious. And here we have a clown who is tragic.

Luciano Pavarotti Yes, really. Molto bene.

Studs Terkel This is it. So it's Canio, the comedy is ended. "Vesti la giuppa" and to you, Luciano Pavarotti, grazie.

Luciano Pavarotti Thank you very very much. Great day to be your guest and I hope to be here very very soon for our public.