Luciano Pavarotti, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 12, 1935 – September 6, 2007) was an Italian tenor in opera music, who crossed into popular music and became one of the most beloved vocal performers. He was one of The Three Tenors and was well known for his televised concerts and media appearances. Pavarotti was also noted for his charity work benefiting refugees, the Red Cross and other causes.
He was born in Modena to the family of a baker. After abandoning the dream to become a professional football goalkeeper, Pavarotti spent seven years in vocal training and began his career as a tenor in 1961 in Italy. He then sang in houses in The Netherlands, Vienna, London, Ankara, Budapest and Barcelona. The young tenor earned both valuable experience and significant recognition while touring on the invitation of soprano Joan Sutherland and during his 1965 US debut in Miami on her recommendation. His position was solidified in the years between 1966 and 1972, during which Pavarotti first appeared at Milan’s La Scala, other major European houses and, in 1968, NYC’s Metropolitan Opera to great acclaim.
By the mid-1970s, the tenor became known worldwide, famed for the brilliance and beauty of his tone, especially into the upper register. His “high C” became one of his trademarks. The late 1970s and 1980s saw Pavarotti making significant appearances in the world’s opera houses and establishing himself as one of the great singers of the era.
Popular stardom came at the 1990 World Cup in Italy with the performances of Nessun Dorma,sample (help·info) from Turandot and as one of The Three Tenors in their famed first concert held on the eve of the final match of the tournament (repeated at later Cups). Pavarotti sang together with fellow star tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras and brought to the much wider audience hits previously confined to the opera world. Appearances in advertisements and with pop icons in concerts around the world furthered his influence. Pavarotti always maintained his identity as an opera star, unlike many crossover artists.
The later years brought a decline in ability to perform on stage due to a weight gain and lack of mobility. Pavarotti’s final appearance in an opera was at the Met in March 2004. The 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy saw him performing for the last time. Pavarotti sang Nessun dorma, with the crowd as its Chorus, and got a thunderous standing ovation. On September 6, 2007, he died at home in Modena from pancreatic cancer.