High Numbers

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  November 16, 2006

Pavarotti, of course, has never been a vulgar singer, so at the center of this event was the natural gleam of his timbre (unmistakable no matter how compromised by the amplification), his elegant phrasing, his stylistic authority. How could anyone who had never heard him in person not be thrilled by “Quando le sere al placido” (from Verdi’s Luisa Miller), “Vesti la giubba” (Pagliacci), or the two tenor arias from Tosca? I myself got a few chills during the seamless legato of “Donna non vidi mai” (an encore from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut — Pavarotti’s latest complete opera recording — which he dedicated “to all the beautiful women in the audience”). And I grooved to the irresistible rhythmic energy of the last encore, “Granada.” No “Nessun dorma,” though.

Whereas some singers at the end of their careers deepen their artistry, Pavarotti now seems mainly to be cashing in on his — which is a big price for an artist to pay for making more money than he needs (he gets something in the six-figure bracket for each of his arena events). Some people will surely remember this concert as one of their all-time life experiences, worth every penny of their $175 investment. My own priceless memories of Pavarotti, however, come from a time when he had more to give and was more generous with his gift.<\!s>^

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