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October 12, 2009

Remembering the late Luciano Pavarotti on his birthday

As I walked into work today, an editor mentioned that it was Luciano Pavarotti's birthday. The immensely gifted and popular Italian tenor would have turned 74 today. (Yes, I know, I do a lot of birthday salutes on this blog. What can I say? I live in the past. Get over it.)

Pavarotti died in 2007, the same year that Beverly Sills passed away. The two artists performed Bellini's "I Puritani" in 1972, an event that was, fortunately, recorded. I thought I would use that extraordinary occasion to offer a salute to Pavarotti, since it captures him in peak form, spinning out the elegant melodic lines of "A te o caro," one of the most beautiful tenor arias in the repertoire. (I prefer to remember Pavarotti from his pre-arena-concert-by-rote-singing days.) And we get to enjoy Sills, one of my all-time favorites, in a few ardent notes as well.

Also, this performance was led by Anton Guadagno, who died in 2002. The Italian conductor, underrated in some corners, had an innate sense of style (and a wildly dynamic personality).

All three artists served the operatic art in treasured ways, and hearing them together on this live recording seems like a fitting way to commemorate the anniversary of Pavarotti's birth.

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:38 AM | | Comments (6)


Such a beautiful song... I recently learned of a movement started by the American Cancer Society to create a world with more birthdays. It's a way that you can join with thousands of other people to fight cancer and create a world less cancer and more birthdays.

It's a shame that Pavarotti couldn't live to see more birthdays, but we can still fight for the millions of other people suffering from that same terrible disease.

Please join me at

Thanks very much for posting this beautiful tribute! These two heavenly artists are greatly missed.

Thanks. TIM

Pavarotti was a great singer and a human being. What high C's he could hit !

There is no tenor on the international stage right now who comes even close to matching this unbelievable singing. The musicality, expression, ease on high (C#, which he does not 'hit,' but sings!), and glorious sound with all those overtones, have never been equaled. Thank God for recordings; thanks for posting this, Mr. Smith!

I well understand your enthusiasm. During his glory years, Pavarotti was in an exalted class, and, as you point out, there is no one singing with anything like his combination of qualities today. Thanks for commenting. TIM

"I live in the past."

Yes, so do I. Welcome to the club!

A very nice club, too, I like to think. TIM

This is soooooo beautiful. He has no rival, no one can match him, His voice, personality, stage pesence, ability to become one with the audience and project his love to them, is outstanding.
He lives on in his music, books, dvds and cds. I love watching him sing.

Thanks for commenting. I'm very glad you liked the clip. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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