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At the height of his fame, Pavarotti jumped on the bandwagon of uniting high class equestrianism and classical music and initiated an annual international horse show at his estate in Modena, the Pavarotti International -- it became a huge success and a permanent fixture on the annual international equestrian circuit, with some of the finest riders in the world travelling there to compete -- and to hear him sing at the opening. He even took up horse-riding himself and laughed about it when, due to his immense weight, he had to be helped on and off his horse. He cycled through the streets of China, always was good for a joke or an unconventional move that he could be certain would raise some eyebrows. In 2003, at the age of 68, he married again -- his much younger secretary, Nicoletta. His voice he always considered somewhat of an entity of its own, even likened it to a horse. 'The tenor's voice can indeed be compared to a horse,' he once said in an interview. 'It is elegant and wild, but when it is controlled, it is beautiful and much more dangerous than a baritone's voice. It has nothing to do with someone singing under a shower, the tenor's voice is like a wild animal that needs to be reined.'
He was a big tenor with a small repertoire, but he set new accents for Bel Canto, for Donzietti, Puccini and Bellini, and for many others as well. Karajan even considered him to be the best tenor since Caruso. And yet, his stage fright never left him. 'What I go through in the last ten minutes before a performance,' Pavarotti once said, 'I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, if I had one. You cry, you think, why am I putting myself through this, why did I choose this profession? But then you hear your voice, your confidence comes back, everything settles down inside of you, and then it is time to go on stage and everything is well again.'
The stage fright is something that he inherited from his father. Fernando Pavarotti was a very good tenor himself, although his profession was and remained that of a baker, but he was good enough to be invited to sing at La Scala in Milan. He declined, because he could not overcome his stage fright! His son remained superstitious, although he overcame his stage fright each time in the end, just before it was time to go out and sing, but he never performed without his lucky charm, a bent nail in his pocket! The last public appearance of Pavarotti was in February 2006 in Turin, when he sang 'Nessun Dorma' at the opening of the Olympic Winter Games.
Copyright © 8 September 2007
Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany