Great Performances: Pavarotti and the Italian Tenor (1992) | ETV Classics

Pavarotti and the Italian Tenor celebrates the singing traditions of Italy, highlighting in particular, its cherished tenors of the past. The production also offers homage to the love and pride of a father, son, and community and chronicles Luciano Pavarotti’s path to fame. The recordings of the great tenors were Luciano’s first teachers, and he talks with affection about Caruso, Schipa, Gigli, and Di Stefano, among others. Fernando Pavarotti, a baker, and amateur tenor of local renown took his son to teacher Arrigo Pola to see if Luciano had had the talent to be an opera singer. Pola, recognizing Luciano’s potential, agreed to give him lessons without payment and the rest is history. Conductor and accompanist, Leone Magiera offers a narrative about Luciano and how he approaches his roles.  A duet between Fernando and Luciano is only one of the beautiful musical offerings in this production.

Side Notes:

  • Leone Magiera (1934 -)  is a conductor and pianist who is highly in demand as accompanist to the world's leading vocalists. In addition to building his career as a solo pianist he was engaged by the great conductor Herbert von Karajan to oversee the preparation of the leading singers who were to perform in concert and in opera for the maestro. Vocal coaches are the unheralded heroes of opera houses. Those on the staff of opera houses consult closely with the conductor of an upcoming production, learn his interpretation, and convey it to the singers, assuring the conductor and the house that when the productions are ready for stage rehearsals, the singers will be prepared, their parts learned, interpretations settled, pronunciations in foreign languages corrected, and trouble spots in the parts smoothed out.
  • Fernando Pavarotti (1912 – May 24, 2002) was an exceptional, though untrained, tenor. Years later, Luciano said his father had turned down the possibility of a singing career because of stage frights. The family was poor in those early days, but his father’s passion for music opened a new world for his son. Luciano’s first encounters with singing and opera came through both his singing and listening to his father’s collection of albums from the great tenors of the day.
  • Enrico Caruso ( February 25, 1873—August 2, 1921) sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. One of the first major singing talents to be commercially recorded, Caruso made 247 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920, which made him an internationally popular entertainment star. It was said that he ushered out the bel canto period and into lirico spinto period.
  • Giovanni Martinelli (October 22, 1885–February 2, 1969) was associated with the Italian lyric-dramatic repertory, performong French operatic roles to acclaim as well. Martinelli was one of the most famous tenors of the 20th century, enjoying a long career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and appearing at other major international theatres.
  • Aureliano Pertile (November 9, 1885–January 11, 1952) considered by many as one of the most exciting operatic artists of the inter-war period, and one of the most important tenors of the 20th century. In his only season at the Met, his roles included des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana, Grigori in Boris Godunov, Radames in Aida, Canio in Pagliacci and Julien in Louise. He performed Louise with the Met's touring company at Philadelphia and in Brooklyn, then he returned to Italy, where he established himself as the leading tenor at La Scala from 1927 to 1937, becoming a favorite singer of the principal conductor Arturo Toscanini.
  • Tito Schipa, born Raffaele Attilio Amedeo Schipa  (December 27, 1888—December 16, 1965) was an Italian lyric tenor, considered the greatest tenore di grazia and one of the most popular tenors of the century. Schipa's artistry is preserved on film and in recordings.
  • Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (December 11, 1892—17 March 17, 1979), lyric Italian tenor with a voice of exceptional range and technical facility. He performed throughout Europe and the Americas in a career that spanned 40 years. Lauri-Volpi recorded a number of opera arias and duets for European and American gramophone companies during the height of his fame. It was said that his voice was bright, flexible, and ringing in tone with a shimmering vibrato.
  • Beniamino Gigli (March 20, 1890—Nov. 30, 1957) one of the greatest Italian operatic tenors of the first quarter of the 20th century. Luciano took the legato from Gigli - In classical singing, “legato” means a string of sustained vowels with minimal interruption from consonants. It is a key characteristic of the bel canto singing.
  • Ferruccio Tagliavini  (August 14,1913 – 29 January 29, 1995) was an Italian operatic lyric tenor mainly active in the 1940s and 1950s. Tagliavini was hailed as the heir apparent to Tito Schipa and Beniamino Gigli in the lyric-opera repertory due to the exceptional beauty of his voice, but he did not sustain his great early promise across the length of his career. He left behind a discography highlighting his skill at soft, or mezza voce, singing. 
  • Mario Del Monaco (July 27, 1915—October 16, 1982) was renowned for his powerful singing voice and heroic style of acting. Del Monaco sang at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1951 to 1959, enjoying particular success in Verdi parts. He established himself as one of four Italian tenor superstars who reached the peak of their fame in the 1950s and '60s, the others being Giuseppe Di Stefano, Carlo Bergonzi and Franco Corelli. Del Monaco's trademark roles during this period were Giordano's Andrea Chénier and Verdi's Otello. It was said that when he died, he was buried in his Otello costume.
  • Arrigo Pola (July 5, 1919—3 November 3, 1999) , Voice Teacher/Opera Coach, Tenor.  Among the roles Pola sang with the Manila Opera were Canio in Pagliacci, Manrico in Il trovatore, Rodolfo in La bohème, and Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana. In 1954, Pola returned to Italy  and that year, he was approached by a baker named Fernando Pavarotti who wanted to know whether the tenor voice of his 19-year-old son, Luciano, was good enough for training as a professional opera singer. Pola later reported that he knew, after an approximately 15-minute audition, that he was standing against a superb talent. 
  • Franco Corelli (April 8, 1921—October 29, 2003) had a major international opera career between 1951 and 1976. Associated with the spinto and dramatic tenor roles of the Italian repertory, it was said that he was celebrated universally for his powerhouse voice, electrifying top notes, clear timbre, passionate singing, and remarkable performances. Dubbed the "prince of tenors", audiences were enchanted by his handsome features and charismatic stage presence. He had a long and partnership with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City between 1961 and 1975 and appeared on the stages of most of the major opera houses in Europe and with opera companies throughout North America.
  • Guiseppe Di Stefano (July 24, 1921—March 3, 2008) Giuseppe Di Stefano was an Italian operatic tenor who sang professionally from the mid-1940s until the early 1990s. Called Pippo by fans, he was known as the "Golden voice" or "The most beautiful voice", as the true successor of Beniamino Gigli. 
  • Luciano Pavarotti (October 12, 1935—September 6, 2007) was an operatic tenor who during the late part of his career crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most acclaimed tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for his tone, and gaining the nickname "King of the High Cs".  As one of Three Tenors, who performed their first concert during the 1990 FIFA World Cup before a global audience, Pavarotti became well known for his televised concerts and media appearances. He sold over 100 million records, and the first Three Tenors recording became the best-selling classical album of all time. Pavarotti was also noted for his charity work on behalf of refugees and the Red Cross, amongst others. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1988. Luciano died from pancreatic cancer on 6 September 2007. He received two Primetime Emmy Awards for his PBS variety specials Pavarotti in Philadelphia: La Boheme and Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto Great Performances. Pavarotti, a 2019 documentary film about him, was directed by Ron Howard and produced with the cooperation of Pavarotti's estate using family archives, interviews, and live music footage.
  • Sidney Palmer’s (1939-2016) career included working at NBC Radio in New York where he also became involved in the fledgling medium of television. He worked as a producer and technical director of varied programs including “Toscanini and the NC Symphony Orchestra.” He also worked as a touring concert pianist, conductor of the Little Rock Philharmonic and as an accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera. He moved to Columbia, SC in 1960 to continue his television career at WISTV. In 1979 Palmer joined South Carolina ETV as Executive Director for National Programming where he produced cultural and arts programming.  Palmer's Dance Specials included the American Dance Festival, Cinderella (PBS, 1974), Firebird, Giselle, SC Ballet Theater, Southeastern Dance Festival, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Glasnost Ballet, Nicholas and Alexandra. Musical programing included Kodaly Te Deum, Play of the Three Marys, Carmina Burana, Saint Cecilia Mass, Vanessa (Opera), Kasimir String Quartet, Nicholas Zumbro (Ives), Charles Fugo, Deseret (Opera), USC Concert Choir (Arpad Darazs), Willie Stark (Opera), Kodaly Centennial, The Consul (Opera), Abelard and Heloise (Opera), The Messiah, Back in B Minor Mass, Charleston Symphony 10th Anniversary Concert, The Singing Child (Opera)