deadmoviestar (deadmoviestar) wrote,

Lucky Luciano

Luciano Pavarotti, dead at 71. Now, I am not an opera fan, I'll confess. I love a good classical singer in recital, I love an aria or two, but I have never been successful at immersing myself in an entire opera. In fact, I've gone to four operas and left at intermission every time, including Marriage of Figaro at the Met, for god's sake.

But I do have a Luciano Pavarotti story.

In 1994, I was sent to Miami to work for the Miami Herald for a couple of weeks, writing for the Features section. It was fun, easy. I reviewed some horrible John Carpenter movie (bad) and got to interview Gregory Peck (great). And then I got assigned to cover these local-Miami Metropolitan Opera auditions. The winner would go to New York to be in the finals to get a spot in the Met for that season. Pavarotti was in town to sing a free show at the beach (it drew more than 100,000 people) and so he agreed to be the judge. There were 8 singers.

The auditions were held in a small, out-of-the-way theater, and Pavarotti showed up rather late, surrounded by a pretty enormous entourage, in full i-am-a-STAR mode. But he was really nice, met every single person, shook their hands, looked them in teh eyes, engaged them in conversation about who they were, where they were from. These poor singers, all of them in their early/mid 20s were clearly intimidated, bordering on terrified: they're about to sing Puccini arias in front of the world's most famous singer. Tough gig. 

I expected Pavarotti to listen to them, say a thing or two, then pick a winner and head off to the next party. But he surprised me. He was deeply involved in each singer's performance. And he got onstage and worked with EVERY one of them, offering suggestions on everything from practice regimen to fashion. He was occasionally blunt, but he was never cruel, and these singers were in heaven. He was actually interested in helping them become better singers in the short time he had with them. He enjoyed the process. I was really impressed by that.

The auditions ran more than two hours overtime because of all the attention Pavarotti was giving each singer. At the end, all the singers came out onstage and he was supposed to pick the winner. He stood up -- with a Met rep standing next to him -- and he said, "And the winner is....oh, I cannot decide! You will ALL go to New York!!" The eight singers were stunned for a second, then started jumping and up and down. The woman from the Met looked like someone had just shot her puppy, but she wasn't about to contradict Pavarotti. And Luciano was beaming, obviously very satisfied at having made everyone so happy.  

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