12th October 1935 - 6th September 2007
Luciano Pavarotti was born on 12th October 1935 on the outskirts of Modena, Emilia Romagna, Italy. His father Fernando was a baker and his mother, Adele Venturi, worked in a cigar factory. The family was poor and the four of them (Luciano had a younger sister called Lella) lived in a two room apartment. Fernando Pavarotti was a talented tenor but suffered from nerves so only ever sang as an amateur and never took it up as a career.
During World War II the family were forced to leave the city and headed into the nearby countryside where they rented a single room from a local farmer. While they were living there Luciano developed a keen interest in farming.
Luciano Pavarotti as a baby
Although poor, Luciano Pavarotti enjoyed a very normal and happy childhood and like most young boys had a great love for sport, especially football. His love of music developed initially by listening to recordings his father had of Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Tito Schipa and Enrico Caruso who were all popular tenors at that time. When he was nine years old he joined the small local choir with his father. During his teenage years he regularly went to the cinema to watch Mario Lanza movies and then when he came home he would imitate him in the mirror. When he finished school he wanted to be a goalkeeper but his mother persuaded him otherwise and he trained to be a teacher instead.
He taught for two years but then decided to follow a musical career instead, although his father thought it was a risk and was reluctant to give his consent. Pavarotti began to study music seriously in 1954 (aged 19) and was taught in Modena by Arrigo Pola who was not only a well-respected teacher but also a professional tenor. Arrigo Pola taught Luciano Pavarotti without ever charging any fees.
Pavarotti joined a male voice choir in Modena and in 1955 the choir won first prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. He said that this was the most important experience of his life and the thing which inspired him to become a professional singer.
Arrigo Pola moved to Japan so Pavarotti became a student of Ettore Camogalliani. Mirella Freni, an old childhood friend, was also studying under Camogalliani and she and Pavarotti went on to share the stage on numerous occasions and to make many recordings together.
Pavarotti had to support himself while he was studying and continued to work as a teacher for a while and then later as an insurance salesman. After six years of hard work and study he had only performed at a few recitals in small towns, all without pay. He developed a nodule on his vocal chords and after giving a disastrous concert in the Italian town of Ferrara he made the decision to give up singing. This decision seemed to trigger some kind of miracle and the nodule disappeared after which his voice was much improved. Pavarotti said "Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve". During this period he met his first wife Adua Veroni and they married in 1961.
In the same year he made his first significant appearance as Rodolfo in 'La Bohème' at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia. Several other appearances in small, regional Italian opera houses were followed by his first international appearance in 'La Traviata' in Belgrade. This was quickly followed by performances at the Vienna State Opera and the Royal Opera House in London.
Pavarotti singing with Joan Sutherland in 1976
His really big break came in 1963 when Joan Sutherland, along with her conductor husband, Richard Bonynge, were looking for a young tenor to take on tour with them to Australia. One important factor was that the tenor would have to taller than Joan Sutherland and Pavarotti's large physique fitted the bill perfectly. The Australian tour went ahead with a staggering forty performances in two months. Later, Pavarotti gave Joan Sutherland the credit for his breathing technique that would sustain him throughout his career.
Pavarotti in concert - Photo: Mario Manias
In 1965 he made his American debut in Miami with Joan Sutherland and in the same year he made his first appearance at La Scala in 'La Bohème' with Mirella Freni.
Luciano Pavarotti went on to become one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time and managed to cross over into popular music gaining worldwide fame. As one of the Three Tenors he bought opera to a wide audience and used his fame and fortune to reach out and help the less fortunate through his charity work. He was deservedly classed as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century.
Pavarotti in Saint Petersburg
After 34 years of marriage he divorced his first wife, with whom he had three daughters. In 2003 he married his former personal assistant Nicoletta Mantovani. The couple already had a daughter and they had a second child, a son, who did not survive due to complications at birth.
Luciano Pavarotti died from pancreatic cancer on 6 September 2007, aged 71.