R.I.P. Luciano Pavarotti

Whether you love the opera or hate it, there is no doubt that Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti transcended the genre and made a huge impact on the music world during his lifetime.

His voice - a creamy and powerful instrument that soared majestically when the Maestro used it to interpret opera's most beautiful and difficult arias - has now
been stilled forever:

“The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life,” said an e-mail statement that his manager sent to The Associated Press.

“In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness.”

Like Enrico Caruso and Jenny Lind before him, Mr. Pavarotti extended his presence far beyond the limits of Italian opera. He became a titan of pop culture. Millions saw him on television and found in his expansive personality, childlike charm and generous figure a link to an art form with which many had only a glancing familiarity.

Early in his career and into the 1970s he devoted himself with single-mindedness to his serious opera and recital career, quickly establishing his rich sound as the great male operatic voice of his generation — the “King of the High Cs,” as his popular nickname had it.
How many opera singers ever appeared on the old Muppet Show? Or hosted Saturday Night Live? Pavarotti's ebullience and huge smile - matching a girth he self deprecatingly made fun of - endeared him to millions of fans around the world who may never have heard of Toscanini but were enthralled by the voice that gave life to those lyrical arias.

Some critics savaged him for "going commercial." Pavarotti's response to that was simple; if "commercial" means many millions more people see and enjoy opera, give me "commercial everyday. Indeed, it is estimated that his live performance of an eclectic mix of opera, Italian folk songs, and popular standards at the Lincoln Center in 1981 drew one of the largest public television audiences of all time.

Notoriously tempermental, Pavarotti will be remembered for his generosity of spirit rather than his tantrums. His numerous performances for worthy causes through the years (at times appearing with rock and pop stars) are a testament to his dedication to both his art and humanity. There wasn't a nation on earth where he was not instantly recognizable. A truly remarkable fact considering the limited fan base for opera.

Thankfully, his voice will live forever thanks to his recordings. For that, future generations will be grateful when listening to perhaps the most unique song artist the 20th century produced.