If we were to use the term “phenomenon,” we would only be partially describing his life, voice, and personality - an inadequate attempt at an incomplete characterization. For his fans, he will always remain “Big Luciano.”

Pavarotti’s life reads like the plot of a film: the son of a poor family, his father a baker, his mother a laborer. His first performances in the local choir, teacher, voice lessons, wins a competition, first engagements, and his career skyrockets upward.

Up to the 1980s, he was one of classical music’s most sought-after stage tenors. LP recordings increased his fame and wealth, along with his tax problems.

Vocal difficulties led him to prioritize the concert circuit, then he discovered that television could be a stage and began treading in shallower waters stylistically. He organized benefit events featuring stars from classical music, pop, and jazz.

Pavarotti’s comeback attempts were only partly successful. Divorce, marriage with his secretary, and a stormy private life all left their traces. The man, whose voice was one of the most distinctive ever heard, passed away in late summer 2007.

As we stroll along the streets of Modena today, the heart-warming sound of Pavarotti’s voice envelops us from the storefront windows and “Nessun Dorma” is heard from afar, the world stands still as we shed a tear of happiness for the gift of this moment. Grazie, Big Luciano!

© Gerhard Krammer, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • Born on October 12, 1935 in Modena (Reggio Emilia-Romagna)

  • Voice lessons with Arrigo Pola (1954), Ettore Campogalliani in Mantua (starting 1958)

  • 1961 wins the Concorso Internazionale vocal competition, debut as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème

  • 1966 debut at Milan’s La Scala, 1968 first performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo

  • Operas: Aida, Ballo in Maschera, La Bohème, L’Elisir d’Amore, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Rigoletto, Tosca, Il Trovatore, and Turandot

  • Collaborates with all the important opera conductors of his time, including Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Riccardo Chailly, Carlo Maria Giulini, Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Tullio Serafin, and Sir Georg Solti

  • Following health problems, several successful comeback attempts between 1993 and 2003, though he makes his farewell tour in 2004, which must be broken off due to pancreatic cancer

  • Last official performance at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Turin (2006)

  • Luciano Pavarotti dies on September 6, 2007 at the age of 71 at his home in Modena

Did you know?

  • Because of his remarkable voice and his parents’ difficult financial situation, Pavarotti’s first voice teacher gave him free lessons.

  • Pavarotti debuted in the role of director at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice (1988, Gaetano Donizetti’s La Favorita)

  • His recording of “Nessun Dorma” served as the official song of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Joining his colleagues Placido Domingo and José Carreras to perform in stadium concerts, the “Three Tenors” attract an audience of millions, as well as millions in revenue, over the following six years.

  • Concert at London’s Hyde Park in front of 150,000 people under pouring rain, with guests including Lady Diana and Prince Charles (1991).

  • At the annual Pavarotti and Friends benefit concerts he organized in Modena, Pavarotti appeared with such performers as U2, Bryan Adams, Grace Jones, and Liza Minelli.

  • A big voice and a big heart: Pavarotti regularly supported people living in crisis areas.

  • 2002 an artistic scandal erupts when he is thrown out of the Met.

  • Numerous awards for artistic and social achievements (Grammy Awards, UN Nansen Award, Premio Eccellenza per la cultura, and many others).

  • An avid sports fan, he founded the “Pavarotti International” horse jumping competition.

  • Pavarotti tries his hand at acting: Yes, Giorgio, with its strong autobiographical elements, is a flop.



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In Memoriam Pavarotti and Solti