The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (273): Unbearded Pavarotti

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (273): Unbearded Pavarotti


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2020

This is the great man in his most bell-like tones in a 1964 Moscow recital.

The pianist is Antonion Tonini.



  • Greg Bottini says:

    Pavarotti was heading to be one of the all-time great singers, as this clip clearly shows.
    Then he got too full of himself, too full of food, and stopped practicing.
    He ended up sounding awful, bellowing his way through the repertoire and not even bothering to TRY to act onstage.
    He was pathetic at the end, morbidly obese and slovenly, and then he died rich.
    What a story.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      To all those who downvoted this comment, I shall quote Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in “A Few Good Men”:

      • Richard Cumming-Bruce says:

        No, I just can’t handle mean spirits who overstate their case to denigrate a dead man who gave immense pleasure to many millions until the day he died. What you say is not wholly without substance but to say he sounded “awful” is ridiculous. Why do people always have to focus on the negatives, even with a great artist who has left a legacy which will endure for generations?

        • Greg Bottini says:

          I focus on the negative in this particular case, Mr. Cumming-Bruce, because Pavarotti pissed me off.
          He pissed me off by squandering his born talent and wasting his time on all those stupid (but money-making) “Pavarotti and Friends” and “Three Tenors” records instead of buckling down, going on a diet, practicing, and working to preserve his special gift, that one-of-a-kind voice.
          His tone spread and got flabby (like his body), his intonation went to hell, and he was a trial onstage: he couldn’t move around, he wouldn’t act, and he sang to the audience, not to or with his onstage colleagues.
          Think of all the dedicated and hard-working opera singers who will NEVER have the opportunity Pavarotti had, simply because they weren’t born with that superb raw material.
          He wasted his gifts and wrecked what would have been a long, great life as an OPERA SINGER, not a clownish show business celebrity.
          It’s a tragedy.
          I stand by my original comment. If you think I’m being “mean-spirited” by pointing out the truth, that’s your problem, not mine.

        • Marfisa says:

          Quite right, R. C.-B. Being uncharitable and rude, shouting in capital letters, refusing to accept mild disagreement: unpleasant behaviour, and unnecessary for making what may be a valid point.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            Obviously, Marfisa, you have not seen the movie to which I referred. The character shouted his line, so that’s how I tried to reproduce it, all in caps.
            It is not my practice to be “charitable” when I express a strongly felt personal opinion, nor do I subscribe to the idiotic concept of never speaking ill of the dead.
            And who made you the all-knowing all-wise arbiter of what is or is not “rude” or “unpleasant” behavior, anyway? Are you a member of some sort of etiquette police?
            I do not like you, Marfisa. I wish you would in future refrain from criticizing my comments, as I have refrained from criticizing yours (in case you haven’t noticed).
            Go away. Leave me alone.

          • Marfisa says:

            I too have refrained from saying anything about your comments, ever since you told me to ‘go bug somebody else’ when I reacted to your uninformed judgment of a Hockney portrait. This is even though I often like what you say.

            I was not in this case addressing you directly, but responding to another comment.

            I have opinions on what is rude and unpleasant, as you no doubt have, and I am entitled to voice them. But you are right, I should have gagged my inner Nanny and not done so. You made a fair point about Pavarotti and waste of talent, all the sadder because so many people have been prevented from developing and displaying their talent this last year. Jason Haaheim’s blog from S. Korea was incredibly moving.

            Surely the point of sites such as this is the exchange of diverse opinions? Even between people who may not like each other? It is not an echo chamber. We are all subject to disagreement and criticism if we choose to expose our views in an open forum.

            Mr Lebrecht, who owns the site, alone has the right to tell me to go away or forbid me to comment.

            But in any case my New Year resolution is to give up commenting on SD, so you will not be vexed by me again.

            I wish you all the best for 2021.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            When I wrote “Go away. Leave me alone”, it followed my wish that you stop criticizing my comments. Perhaps I should have emphasized that I meant my comments only; in no way did I ever mean to suggest that you leave this website completely.
            But now you, of your own volition, have decided that your “New Year resolution is to give up commenting on SD”. It is of course your choice. I’m sure your absence will be noted by many commenters.
            I will take this opportunity, in the spirit of the New Year, to heartily encourage you to stick to your New Year resolution…. resolutely.

  • Arnie says:

    I first heard a S.F. Boheme w/ Kirsten in 1969 and afterwards heard probably all his roles at the Met including the disastrous attempt at a late career revival of La Fille in which he took the 9 hi C’s down more than an octave(?) then walked off stage bringing in his cover. The last time I heard him was a Tosca @ the Met in which, as soon as he opened his mouth, even w/o his early glorious top, blew away every living tenor with that amazing sound.There was a recital in Pasadena in late 70’s which after a poorly sung “Pourquoi me reveiller” (he knew it was bad) sang it again much better. I’ve heard Bjoerling, DiStafano, Gedda and Tagliavini live but the greatest tenor singing, to my non musician ears, is Pav’s I Puritani w/ Sills in Phila. in 1972. His late career choices aside, he was gloriously stunning and in my earlier years, lined up @ 3AM to get standing room tix.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    I’m curious: is it true that he never learned to read music; and if so, was he the last major opera star to succeed without that ability?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Trying to forgetthe grievous lapses and later guazzabuglio, I remember his “William Tell” aria with real high Cs, the aria from “I due Foscari” with astounding falseto seamlessly merged with full voice, and Liszt’s “Tre sonetti di Petrarca”, especialy “Pace non trovo” from his recital program with piano.

    His father was also a tenor; they sang together sometimes, and one of them at least loved Gigli.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      I had never heard of the word “guazzabuglio” before.
      I looked it up.
      It is truly a great word, and I shall endeavor to add it to my Italian vocabulary.
      – Happy New Year, Greg

  • Edgar Self says:

    Felice capodanno, Greg, and a Happier and better New Year toNorman Lebrecht and to Slipped Disc, which has more followers than a lemming. Let’s all listed to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert tomorrow. Prosit Newjahr!