Widely considered one of the greatest tenors of his time,
Pavarotti began his life modestly in the north-central Italian town of
Modena, the son of Fernando, a baker and amateur singer, and Adele, who
worked at the local tobacco factory. "I dreamed to become a
singer when I was four and I hear my father singing in the church with a
beautiful tenor voice," he told CNN in a 1991 interview.
"And I say to myself, well, let's try to do something."
The young Pavarotti -- who played soccer with his town's junior team --
joined the church choir with his father and travelled with him to Wales,
where the singing group won first prize at the Llangollen International
singing competition. Although the experience left Pavarotti
enthralled with singing, he graduated from the local teaching institute in
1955 and taught elementary school for two years, then worked as an
insurance salesman. He continued his vocal studies, however, working first
with with Arrigo Pola and then with Ettore Campogalliani. Then, in
1961, Pavarotti won the prestigious Concorso Internazionale and made his
operatic debut at the Reggio Emilia Theater as Rodolfo in Giacomo
Puccini's "La Boheme." His fame spread throughout Italy and then
throughout the European continent as he made his international debut in
Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" in Belgrade.
When Dame Joan Sutherland brought him on-stage with her during a
performance of Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" with
the Greater Miami Opera in 1965, Pavarotti began his American
He debuted at New York's Metropolitan Opera House three years later, and
eventually marked 379 performances there, including his final opera,
Puccini's "Tosca" in 2004, in which he performed as the painter
But the major break for him in terms of acclaim took place on February
17, 1972, when in a staging at the Metropolitan Opera of "The
Daughter of the Regiment," he hit nine high C's in an aria.
Within opera circles his fame skyrocketed; it would eventually spread to
the world at large.
Over his career, Pavarotti sold millions of records and raised millions
of dollars for charity through benefit concerts, often sharing the stage
with pop stars as well as other opera singers.
In artistic terms, Pavarotti brought to the stage a voice neatly suited
to the traditional bel canto, or "beautiful singing"
style, essential to 17th-century Italian opera. As much about intensity as
pitch, bel canto focuses the voice, concentrating the sound with both
outstanding warmth and agility.