Early in his career Pavarotti was already known as the 'King of the high C's' and his later collaborations with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras as The Three Tenors made him a household name.
Luciano Pavarotti CC BY 4.0 Mariomanias
Pavarotti himself said that "part of his importance was in ‘saving’ opera by popularizing it at a time when it seemed a doomed art form." That opera was doomed at that time is debatable when opera houses were actually regularly sold out.
But people must have been grateful, because his farewell to the Met on 13 March 2004 garnered a 15-minute standing ovation and ten curtain calls. It ended a career of 379 appearances with the company.
Roger Flury suggests that the real key to Pavarotti's success was three-fold.
"First, his individuality of voice - the steely, silver edge, the openness of vowels, the stylistic traits that evolved into sometimes outrageous mannerisms.
Secondly, the common touch – the persona, the charisma and the ability to communicate with audiences of any size.
Thirdly - and maybe most importantly (although it’s also the most difficult to explain) there’s the sense that in hearing Pavarotti one is in direct contact with the music, in touch with the composer. He cuts out the middleman. We are not aware of him as a re-interpreter of the written note. He becomes the music itself.
That doesn’t mean he was the most musical or stylistic singer, that he made the best business or artistic decisions, or that he lived an impeccable life.
Far from it. But he had a gift that couldn’t be taught."
PUCCINI: Che gelida manina (La Bohème) Laserlight 15 226
DONIZETTI Una furtive lagrima (L’Elisir d’amore) Decca 425 681
VERDI La Donna e mobile (Rigoletto) Tring Sym 104
DONIZETTI Pour mon âme (La fille du regiment) Decca 414 520
MASCAGNI excerpt (L’amico Fritz) EMI 5 75330
VERDI Ma se m’e forza perditi (Un Ballo in Maschera) Decca 440 042
TOSTI A Vuchella Decca 421 526
CRESCENZO Rondine al Nido Decca 430 433
VERDI Dio mi potevi (Otello) Decca 440 843
PUCCINI Nessun dorma (Turandot) Decca 425 681