Return to in memoriam
In one's lifetime, there are instances that are inexplicable. One such instance happened to me during the night when I awoke from sleep and knew that Luciano Pavarotti had died. I cannot explain this but surely, there is some higher power reaching out to bring important news to your soul. This was confirmed when very early this morning I received phone call advising Pasquina and I that Luciano had passed away at 5:00 AM Italian time.
A lifelong friend, Godfather to my two sons', a colleague and a man of immense generosity to those close to him, an epoch of my life comes to a close. I am deeply, deeply saddened.
For over forty years, since we first met in a cold loft in Australia as an unknown tenor, to the man who became the property of the world, we remained close.
From the first time I heard him open his mouth to sing the opening strains of L'Elisir D'amore, it was a thrill that brought tears to one's eyes to think that such a sound could come from one human being.
It was my privilege to conduct his first performances of his preferred role of Nemorino along with unforgettable performances of Traviata, Sonnombula and Lucia di Lammermoor. His performances of Elvino in La Sonnombula (a role he never sang in the U.S) still ring in my ears, as something never equaled again in my operatic experience. It is hard to fathom that His Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne was only about one quarter full for his first performance. No one knew who he was. After all, all the fuss was over Joan Sutherland who was making her triumphant return to her native country. Word travels fast in Operatic Circles and after that, first performance the theatre was standing room only from then on. Luciano was generous with his talent. Encores in most theatres today are unheard of but Luciano was not against giving his public what they wanted. How many times he would repeat an aria for his public when they clamored for more. Luciano was a simple man with simple tastes. When we first met, he was a svelte 180 pound six foot plus handsome man who loved to cook. He had a little electric stovetop in his hotel room and his wife and I would cook the most wonderful Italian food on this make shift kitchen. These are times one never forgets.
When I came back to the United States I immediately asked for an appointment with the then General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Rudolf Bing and told him about Pavarotti. I begged him to get in touch with a man I was certain would take New York by storm. He said he would look into it. A few weeks later, I was called into his office and he informed me that his European agent, a Mr. Robert Bauer, had informed him that “Mr. Pavarotti”, as he put it, “was not Metropolitan Opera material” What does that tell you. Well, you do not argue with your boss so I let it go. Some weeks later, the Met was in need and Mr. Robert Herman, and then Artistic administrator at the Met asked me about Pavarotti. I had the pleasure to tell him that he was not available but was singing Manon at La Scala. How they were not aware of this I cannot tell you. The following year he made his debut at the Met and as they say, the rest is History.
Pasquina and I have lost a wonderful human being from our lives. Luciano is irreplaceable in our existence and in the lives of the world. I could not let his death pass without a few words. Life goes on but it will never be the same without our “Beloved Luciano”.
Addio, Caro Luciano.
William M. Weibel, Artistic Director, Opera in the Heights