Recognized as one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died this morning at the age of 71. Before making his mark in opera Pavarotti tried his hand as an insurance salesman and elementary school teacher. It’s a good thing for opera fans that he failed at both.
Pavarotti holds the world record for most curtain calls, at 165, and shares the honor for making the best-selling classical album The Three Tenors with fellow tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. He might also hold the record as the heaviest tenor, having weighed in at 396 pounds in 1978.
With the A above middle C defined at 440 Hz, the tenor range is about 130 to 493 Hz, although the lowest note in the Wagner Ring cycle is the A two octaves below middle C and many tenor roles reach the C one octave above middle C, that note being called the “tenor C.”
One hundred years ago Enrico Caruso was making his mark as the 20th century’s first popular tenor, making recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company starting in 1904 and surviving the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 after performing the night before. But it was said that Caruso could not reach the tenor C. He would either lower the entire score a half-step or sing the note falsetto.
Who will be this century’s tenor sensation? If Pavarotti gets his wish posthumously, it could be 34 year old Peruvian Juan Diego Flórez, known affectionately as JDF by his fans. It seems Pavarotti himself anointed JDF as his successor.
JDF is taking Pavarotti seriously. He even sings tenor Cs in encores.