Opera is one genre of music for which I have never gained an appreciation. I’ve heard it said, “You should really learn to like opera; it’s good for you,” as though opera were a leafy green vegetable. Well, leafy greens I like just fine, but as interesting and enjoyable as the music may be, as compelling as the stories may be (if I could understand them without a translated libretto), as beautiful as the costumes and sets may be, I just can’t seem to develop a taste for opera. That said, I would like to note the passing of a great voice and a great personality, not just from the world of opera, for which he was such an engaging ambassador, but from the world of arts and entertainment in general, with the death of Luciano Pavarotti.
As much as I have never learned to appreciate opera, I did come to have an appreciation for Luciano Pavarotti as an entertainer with a personality that seemed as large as he was and a voice that communicated intensity, joy, and passion. Throughout the remembrances in the news today and for whatever time to come, the aria “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” will likely be considered as much Pavarotti’s signature piece as anything else. And even for an opera non-lover like me, it is a remarkable piece, both showcasing Pavarotti’s voice and being made more well-known for his having sung it. But my own appreciation comes even more from his performance of Christmas and other sacred music from a 1976 album (subsequently reissued on CD). Here, too, his voice carries the meaning as well as singing the words; for me, other operatic performers come across as technical and even cold, though that may just be my lack of familiarity, but Luciano Pavarotti’s never did. It was always direct and heartfelt, and a joy to hear.
Dorme nell’armi del dio, caro Luciano.