Friday, September 07, 2007


I have tried and, so far, failed to find the interview I did with Pavarotti many years ago. It's perhaps as well, I don't think it was very good. His voice always gave me the impression of immense space and distance, an effect which, being musically illiterate, I cannot explain. Everybody else sounds as though they are singing, he sounds as though he is doing something quite different and better. He was, when we met, paralysingly self-conscious about his weight. He wrapped a huge silk shawl around himself when seated. The photographer, however, was determined to get the full physical scale of the man. So, outside in the garden, the two of them executed a curious dance as Pavarotti tried to hide behind the trees. It was this photographer who in a room at the Berkeley Hotel tried to talk Kirk Douglas into posing naked. Stifling laughter, I had to leave. Anyway, just to say I don't think I gave Pavarotti the interview he deserved. But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
PS In fact, thinking about it, this is the best tribute to the man. It says everything there is to say about art.


  1. Pavarotti was a genuine human archetype. Like Sophia Loren or Sir Rannulph Fiennes. I wonder if it's a burden being one?

  2. Yes that's it - he didn't sound as if he was singing. Ella Fitzgerald had that quality too.

  3. He may have been self-conscious about his size, but at least it didn't stop him having fun, as this wonderful piece of gossip republished by Popbitch suggests:

    >> Larger than life <<
    Remembering a legend in happier times

    RIP Pavarotti. We recall a story we wrote about him in 2003. While rehearsing for his farewell performance at Covent Garden, Pavarotti sloped off to his dressing room with two female dancers.

    And was discovered a little later, by the runner sent to retrieve him, enjoying oral sex from one, while the other held his stomach out of the way.

  4. Yuck, Johnny: I hope that image leaves my mind sooner rather than later.

    As for Pavarotti the great opera singer, I saw him once and it was when I discovered how culturally shallow I am: I don't like opera.

    A very cultured guy was wooing me and took me to the Met in NYC to see Pavarotti in "Don Giovanni." We had fabulous seats surrounded by rich old people with opera glasses and rustling gowns & tuxes. Naturally, I hadn't bothered to read the libretto and so it was all Italian to me, but Pavarotti was there alright, like an enormous Jabba the Hut sitting in the middle of the stage. There were scenes where he was supposed to scale balconies and otherwise flit around to woo women, but all he did was sit and sing while a slimmer double, dressed like him, did the climbing and so forth. It was the most bizarre thing I ever saw, yet everyone around me who loved opera suspended their disbelief.

    In my shallowness, I realized I preferred to go dance the night away at Studio 54 with the fellow I've now been married to for 20 years rather than attend the opera with the rich and cultured guy. I'm sure I was a huge disappointment to him.

  5. He didn't sound like he was singing and he didn't look like he was working, either. Every time he would finish an aria he had that wonderful, boyish "Did I just do that?" look of astonishment on his face.

    Viva Pavarotti, Viva Italia!

  6. I'm not keen on Opera, Susan. I'm not keen on football either but I enjoy watching a good goal!

    Ella Fitzgerald, nige. Now that's a voice I could love, though I don't understand jazz much. (though I have been told by those in the know that there's really no such thing as a jazz singer).

  7. Lovely story, Susan. I don't 'click' with opera, either. Love classical music and I really miss playing in an orchestra; but the singing part just doesn't do anything for me.

    Been to two operas in the past year - Don Giovanni in Milan and Madame Butterfly in London - and both, I am slightly ashamed to admit, bored me beyond belief.

    I accept I may not have witnessed a truly great production, and I never heard Pavarotti in person; but I am not compelled to return.

    The suspension of disbelief required, as you suggest, is way off my scale. In truth, I find the whole business absurd. And by God, the audience can be stuffy.

  8. And of course the thing everyone's been trying not to say is that Pavarotti may have been a great singer but he was embarrassingly useless as an actor.

  9. Not so, Nige. He was the absolute best at playing Pavarotti, which is what all tenors will try to do, with less success, from now on.

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