Luciano Pavarotti, R.I.P.

There was a lot that was cartoonish, and even occasionally embarrassing, about Pavarotti and his career -- the hankie, the big smile, the mediocre crossover stuff he performed in the late stages of his career ... he was a little too much, sometimes, like the Italian Tenor right out of central casting ...
But man, could he sing . . . In the Fall of 1976, I had just moved back to New York after graduate school. My mother had a couple of tickets that she couldn't use to a "gala" fundraising concert at Carnegie Hall in honor of the (late) great American tenor Richard Tucker, and a friend and I took the tickets. Though we were both pretty serious (amateur) musicians, and had great passion for a pretty wide range of music, neither of us had ever paid much attention to vocal music or to opera. The concert (a succession of opera singers who came out and did one or two numbers each) was terrific, but Pavarotti, who came on last (if memory serves me), was beyond terrific -- he was incandescent. It was like nothing I had ever heard, and like nothing I had ever even imagined; I had absolutely no idea the human voice could sound so beautiful. He performed a couple of Neapolitan songs, and then "Nessun dorma" from Turandot (which later became his "signature" piece). I had never heard it before, let alone live in the concert hall, let alone sung like that. When he finished, we all went into a semi-hysterical state, screaming and shouting and generally going into a frenzy. It changed my life -- once you have an experience like that, how can you not want to have it again?
So I will take a moment today to thank him for that, and to mourn his passing and our loss.