Luciano Pavarotti died ten years ago today, on 6 September 2007.
Teatro alla Scala continually welcomed the great tenor to its stage for almost three decades, from 1965 until 1992. At the Milanese opera house he sang under the baton of Abbado, Prêtre, Kleiber, Patané, Gavazzeni, Karajan, Maazel and Muti. Pavarotti worked extensively with La Scala’s current Musical Director, Riccardo Chailly, on operas by Rossini, Verdi, Puccini and Mascagni.
His debut in the theatre was on 9 December 1965 when he played the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, and during the same season he also sang Rodolfo in Zeffirelli’s well-loved production of La bohème with his childhood friend, Mirella Freni, as well as Tebaldo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Renata Scotto and Giacomo Aragall, conducted by Claudio Abbado. He sang Bohème many times with Freni, in theatres around the world, and would sing it with her again at La Scala in 1969 with Nino Sanzogno and in 1975 with Georges Prêtre. Ileana Cotrubaș was his Mimì in both 1975 and then in 1979 with Carlos Kleiber conducting. In 1968 he was Tonio in La figlia del reggimento, with Freni, and in 1969 he sang Des Grieux in Manon with Mirella Freni and Rolando Panerai.
In December 1970 he sang in Elisir d’amore with Giuseppe Patanè; and in 1974, La favorita conducted by Nino Verchi with Fiorenza Cossotto and Piero Cappuccilli.
He was Rodolfo, but this time in Luisa Miller, in May of 1976; Gianandrea Gavazzeni was conducting and the production was by Filippo Crivelli, with co-stars Montserrat Caballé and Piero Capuccilli. Another Verdi role followed in 1977 when he sang Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera; the conductor was Claudio Abbado, the production by Franco Zeffirelli, and he shared the stage with Shirley Verret, Elena Obraztsova, and Piero Cappuccilli.
Pavarotti’s first Cavaradossi at La Scala came in 1980; his Tosca was Eva Marton and Seiji Ozawa conducted. In 1983 he was Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, (conductor Peter Maag, director Pier Luigi Pizzi, with Luciana Serra as Lucia). In 1985 he opened the season on 7 December as Radamès in Aida with Lorin Maazel, the director Luca Ronconi, and Maria Chiara, Ghena Dimitrova, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Piero Cappuccilli made up the rest of the cast, though Cappuccilli was substituted by Juan Pons during the course of the evening. Another season opening was on 7 December 1992 with a Don Carlo by Zeffirelli, with Muti, Daniela Dessì, Luciana d’Intino, Paolo Coni, and Samuel Ramey.
Aside from his opera commitments he was in the famous Verdi Requiem in 1967 with Herbert von Karajan and fellow soloists Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, and Nicolai Ghiaurov, and again with La Scala on tour at the Basilica of St Mark’s in 1978 with Abbado, and again at La Scala in 1987 with Riccardo Muti.
The main event in Italy to commemorate his passing is a concert tonight at the Arena in Verona – with three tenors friends Placido Domingo and José Carreras among the many guests – which will be transmitted live on Italian TV and a recording will be available soon after.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.