The award-winning arts series marks the first anniversary of the passing of one of opera's greatest tenors with "Pavarotti: A Life in Seven Arias," which premieres in the New York area Sunday, September 7 at 8 PM.
It will be subsequently be presented by PBS stations nationwide. Check local listings or use the Great Performances search function.
Presented by Thirteen/WNET New York and combining archival and rarely seen performance footage with fresh reminiscences by friends and colleagues, the 90-minute musical feast offers a concise yet compelling look at the tenor's meteoric career trajectory. From soccer-playing son of a Modena, Italy, baker to onstage partner of "La Stupenda," world-renowned soprano Joan Sutherland, from media darling to truly one-of-a-kind superstar, it is a story writ as large as the great one himself.
But, as all agree, it was the voice, with its unique golden timbre, that will be the enduring legacy. His recordings of the 1960s, '70s and early '80s offer the definitive performances of the great romantic operas _ Rigoletto, Turandot, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Fille du R_giment, among them.
"I think that Luciano had the sun in his voice," says fellow Three Tenors partner Jos_ Carreras. "It was such a bright, pure sound." "One of the greatest ever," adds the third illustrious member of the trio, Plšcido Domingo.
Assembled by acclaimed filmmaker David Thompson, Carreras and Domingo are joined by sopranos Sutherland, Montserrat Caball_ and Renata Scotto; p.r. whiz Herbert Breslin, credited with creating the Pavarotti Phenomenon; and Terri Robson, the tenor's manager from 2000 until his death.
Also on hand: delightful young Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Fl‹rez, who tells of dialing the maestro on his cell, moments before stepping on stage at Covent Garden to attempt the killer high C's aria, "Pour mon ê¢me," made famous there by his idol 40 years earlier.
The seven arias, and the chapters they represent in the singer's life, are:
1) "Che gelida manina," from Puccini's La Bohme, the opera that marked Pavarotti's debut and shown here in a rare 1965 performance from Modena with Mirella Freni.
2) "Pour mon ê¢me," from Donizetti's La Fille du R_giment, the work he toured with Joan Sutherland. Its famous aria and nine astronomical high notes he detonated from the stage at Covent Garden earned him the sobriquet "King of the High Cs."
3) "Panis Angelicus," the haunting C_sar Franck work he sang as a youth in Modena with his father. The duet affords a visit to his beloved hometown and a chance to recall friends there and participation in the city's renowned Rossini Chorale.
4) "Questa o quella," from Verdi's Rigoletto, marking the beginning of the Pavarotti media blitz.
5) "Nessun dorma," from Puccini's Turandot, the aria he makes his own and immortalizes in the first Three Tenors concert.
6) "E lucevan le stelle," from Puccini's Tosca, underscores the last years and final Met performance.
7) "Ingemisco," from the Verdi Requiem.
A BBC production in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, "Pavarotti: A Life in Seven Arias" is produced and directed by David Thompson, with Peter Maniura as executive producer. Others offering remembrances and observations are tenor Kim Begley; conductor Richard Bonynge, husband of Joan Sutherland; critic Rupert Christiansen; director John Copley; former Royal Opera House wig and make-up master Ron Freeman; and critic Norman Lebrecht.
Visit Great Performances Online for additional information on this and other programs.
Thirteen/WNET New York is one of the key program providers for public television, bringing such acclaimed series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Wide Angle, Secrets of the Dead, NOW With David Brancaccio, Expos_, Bill Moyers Journal, and Cyberchase to audiences nationwide. As the flagship public broadcaster in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro area, Thirteen reaches millions of viewers each week, airing the best of American public television along with its own local productions such as New York Voices, Reel 13 and SundayArts.