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Culture Re-View: "Vincerò!" Looking back on Pavarotti's final opera

Tenor Luciano Pavarotti sings to a mass audience during a free concert in London's Hyde Park, Great Britain, July 30, 1991.
Tenor Luciano Pavarotti sings to a mass audience during a free concert in London's Hyde Park, Great Britain, July 30, 1991. Copyright PAUL VALESCO/1991 AP
Copyright PAUL VALESCO/1991 AP
By Jonny Walfisz
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Few will ever put opera in the public consciousness again like Pavarotti could. Today, we look back at the big man's legacy.

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13 March 2004: Pavarotti plays his final opera

Ask a hundred people to name an opera singer and one name will always come up: Pavarotti. The Italian maestro thrust classical music into the spotlight during his life, but it was on this day that he gave his final performance in an opera.

Born to a working class family in Modena, Italy in 1935, Luciano Pavarotti grew up loving singing and football. After putting aside dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper, he trained in music and by age 20 was winning international competitions for his singing.

Pavarotti’s debut performance as an opera tenor came in 1961, playing Rodolfo in La bohème in Reggio Emilia. Pavarotti’s commanding presence and bold voice saw his career grow and when he debuted in the US a New York crowd was driven to a frenzy by his impressive range.

Things reached a new level for the opera singer when his rendition of ‘Nessun dorma’ was used in the BBC coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. That heart-rending moment before the aria’s crescendo, when the singer repeats “Vincerò!” (“I will win!”) made Pavarotti’s powerhouse voice a star.

FABIAN BIMMER/AP1997
Luciano Pavarotti singing during his concert in Hanover, northern Germany on Nov. 9, 1997.FABIAN BIMMER/AP1997

Alongside Spaniards Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, Pavarotti performed as his supergroup The Three Tenors at a concert on the eve of the World Cup’s final. It was a massive success and the Three Tenors returned for World Cup performances in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

Through these appearances, Pavarotti’s public profile grew and grew as he brought audiences worldwide into the world of opera. It was impossible not to fall for the impressively sized man with the enormous voice.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
More than 56,000 people listen to opera stars, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti, perform "Encore! The Three Tenors" at Dodger Stadium in LA, 1994Mark J. Terrill/AP

No successful career can last forever though, and in 2004 in ailing health, Pavarotti went on a farewell tour.

On this day in 2004, Pavarotti gave his final opera performance, performing as Mario Cavaradossi in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca at the New York Metropolitan Opera. The length of the audience’s standing ovation betrayed the underlying message of the occasion: here was one of the last times the world would witness a true artistic great.

Pavarotti would go on to perform until 2006, giving concerts with an eclectic mix of material, but he would never do an entire opera again. His famous performance of his trademark ‘Nessun dorma’ at the opening for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin wasn’t possible live and had to be pre-recorded.

At his home in Modena on 6 September 2007, Pavarotti died, aged 71.

RICHARD HAUGHTON/1998 AP
Tenor Luciano Pavarotti, right, jokes with Placido Domingo, left, and Jose Carreras during rehearsals July 7,1998 in Paris for their free concert beneath the Eiffel TowerRICHARD HAUGHTON/1998 AP

13 March 1877: The earmuff is invented

In almost equally significant news, today is the anniversary of the first patent being granted by the United States Patent Office for the humble earmuff.

Invented by Chester Greenwood, he came up with the idea as a 15-year-old while living in Maine in 1873 to help with his cold ears while ice skating.

After the thermal earmuff patent was approved in 77, Greenwood manufactured earmuffs from his hometown in Farmington, Maine for the next 60 years.

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