Culture: Supertenor with Huge Appetite for Love, Life and Opera Music; Luciano Pavarotti Talks Exclusively to Christopher Morley about the Secrets of Preserving the Tenor Voice and His Favourite Operatic Roles

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Byline: Christopher Morley

Supertenor Luciano Pavarotti hits town on Sunday, drawing thousands of fans from all over the region to the National Exhibition Centre, avid to hear that honeyed voice and catch the appealing vulnerability beneath those long-admired tones.

The besotted media tell us he is a man of gargantuan appetite, whether it be gastronomical, emotional, or material. Yet there is much more to him than this, as I discovered in an exclusive interview with him.

We began by reminiscing about his early days, and his first appearances in England. Those included a season in Mozart's great opera seria Idomeneo at the Glyndebourne Opera House in 1964.

As a schoolboy, I saw Pavarotti in rehearsal there, singing the role of Idamante. He was a slim, serious and totally committed young man, and I was much taken with his performance.

'I'm happy you were able to share my own experience of Glyndebourne,' he smiles. 'It was a very special experience for me personally as a young singer setting out. An incredible opera house.'

It took several years, however, for Pavarotti to gain total critical acceptance, something which was really only finally achieved when he was taken up by the great Australian soprano Joan Sutherland ('La Stupenda') and her conductor husband Richard Bonynge.

During those years he did not always receive the kindest notices, but he never flinched from reading them.

'I am not one of those people who do not read reviews. I like to think that I am able to listen to the opinions offered by music critics and learn by them, whether I agree with them or not.

'Some music critics are incredibly knowledgeable - about repertoire, about technique and artists. Music criticism is a sharing of an opinion of one person, and often that person will be as much a fanatic of your art as you are, and I have always found that valuable.'

Once the critics had been won over, so the worldwide fame grew, and Luciano Pavarotti and his handkerchief became soughtafter commodities on the concert circuit.

With many huge tours under his capacious belt, does he feel a special reward in giving hundreds and thousands of his fans to opportunity to see him?

'You know, my schedule has never been too manic. I have never taken on tours and performances that will harm my voice - that is why it has lasted so long.

'Even now, or especially now, I pace myself sensibly. For the past ten years I have planned only one year or so ahead with my schedule of performances.

'The best thing about the big arena concerts is that it allows me to share the tenor voice and its repertoire with a great number of people. What can be more rewarding?' Equally rewarding for Pavarotti are many of the great Italian roles he has undertaken, though he continues with a warning for young tenors. Tosca is a wonderful opera for the tenor, but its hero Cavaradossi is a role I took on fairly late in my career.

'I was actually due to sing it in 1963 (at the age of 28), but the great tenor Giuseppe di Stefano told me I was mad, my voice was not ready, that taking on roles like this too early would damage my voice and be very against his advice.

'I listened to the maestro's advice and didn't sing it until over a decade later.'

Pavarotti warms to his theme, and passes on some advice of his own.

'I think it is so important for any singer not to force the voice on roles which are entirely unsuitable. …