Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Charmed Life: when Pavarotti kissed me

Even the greats must make their exit, and in Italy early yesterday morning. Luciano Pavarotti stepped behind the curtain and will be seen no more.

In his later years, Pavarotti allowed his enchantment with celebrity to overwhelm his very real and exquisite talents. But even when he had to be carried on and off the stage, suffering from self-inflicted gout, "the voice kissed by God" almost never disappointed.

Like many Italian men, Pavarotti was a notorious flirt. During his first American tour, he sang La Boheme at the Dallas Civic Opera. I was a local insider from the classical music radio station, and was thrilled to meet the brilliant young tenor. At the reception, the hostess led me by the hand through the gaggle of socialites and hangers-on encircling the beaming artist, who was busy devouring a canape.

"I'd like you to meet one of our very accomplished young ladies who supports the arts," she rather grandly introduced me.

He took one look and thrust his wineglass at a waiter. Before he spoke he held out both hands to take my own.

"This beautiful young lady is a lover of opera? Ah, and to think that I was chosen to sing in her presence!"

Before I could think quite how to reply to this unexpected pronouncement, the burly but appreciative tenor pulled me gently toward him, released my hands to cup my face and kissed me with frank enjoyment.

The bejeweled onlookers gasped, and then giggled nervously. These randy artists, I could see them thinking. You never know what liberties they will take!

In the years that followed, I often thought fondly of that kiss as a moment of ebullient spontaneity in the life of an artist who would later be lionized by the literati and illiterati alike.

In our smaller lives, our occasional brushes with greatness can take on mythic proportions. This was merely a kiss. But I've never forgotten it, or him. And neither will the world.


Anonymous said...

Truly a great loss to music.

Aren't Italian men shy Tabu! A wonderful memory for you.

I wonder if that was Luciano's first American tour though. His debut in the US was 1965 with subsquent tours between 1966 and 1972.

I'm sure you were cute as a cannoli in second grade but I don't think even Luciano would have grabbed you that young!

I saw my first Turandot last season and how disappointed was I when the tenor hit but did not hold the high C as did Luciano in the climatic scene.

I felt absolutley crestfallen.

(still a fine night at the opera)

geeps said...

Wow! Your fifteen minutes of fame. It is funny how I like to be near famous people, but I don't really like to acknowledge that I've even recognized them. But there are a few famous people that I would make an exception for I'm sure, especially if I could kiss them!

Tabu said...

I don't consider it my 15 minutes of fame, certainly-- after all, I'm not the celebrity in the story. This was merely a brush with greatness.

Fame, in my mind, is a concept entirely separate from greatness.

Pavarotti and Paris Hilton are equally famous. I think we'd call only one great.

Thanks for your comment!