Panning Pavarotti

July 07, 1985

You want to know where Luciano Pavarotti's "superdivo" status got its start? You want an account of the "instantaneous ecstasy" his performances could provoke? You want to be present at the first churnings of the "high-velocity publicity machine" and hear the first faint whispers of the Pavarotti "hype" ("The Pavarotti Show Comes to San Diego," by Martin Bernheimer, June 29)?

Then find and read Bernheimer's reviews of Pavarotti's first Los Angeles performances in 1973--in the opera "La Boheme" at the Hollywood Bowl and in a recital at Royce Hall.

In "A Tenor Wins All Hearts at the Bowl," Bernheimer went on to gush that the performance belonged to the tenor; that the opera might better have been called "Luciano Pavarotti" instead of "La Boheme"; that Los Angeles had been late in discovering "this supertenor, this rotund Italian imp with the voice of gold."

A month later Bernheimer reviewed the tenor's first local recital just as enthusiastically.

Sadly, that was a long time ago, and just about everything Bernheimer writes about the Pavarotti of 1985 is true. Little remains of the glorious talent of 1973 that made an audience at the Bowl gasp in astonishment.

But what Bernheimer is writing now about that Pavarotti--passing him off as if he had been little more than "an excellent tenor" and "a promising artist" who could sing with "nice, open, sensual tone"--is just not true, and Bernheimer knows it.

Pavarotti in those days was extraordinary. Just how extraordinary he was has never been documented better than by Bernheimer himself.



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