Thursday, September 06, 2007
One Less Tenor
"I think a life in music is a life beautifully spent, and this is what I have devoted my life to." - Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)
There wasn't much opera in the house where I grew up. And although I developed a tasted for classical music in college, the opera was just a bit out of reach. It was in a language I didn't understand, and it seemed to be only for those who "got it."
A handful of people in recent years changed that perception for me.
I met Sister Deb, a Carmelite novice from New Jersey, while moonlighting for a Marian periodical. We became pals from the beginning. She spoke of the night she met Luciano Pavarotti, how he sang briefly for her, and how it brought tears to her Italian eyes. Matt Archibold of Creative Minority Report reflects on his life as well:
I remember one of my friends was in the middle of a humorous story when Pavarotti began singing Schubert's Ave Maria. And it was like thousands of people all heard their name whispered to them. Everyone, for the the first time that night, became silent and looked up. The fat man was very far away from where we were sitting on our blanket. But we looked up and stared at this well dressed dot hundreds of yards away who was making this angelic noise.
When he sang Ave Maria that night I felt an emotion that I wasn't partial to at that time in my life. Reverence. His voice was clear and beautiful. Nobody spoke. Any word would've sounded harsh, like a curse word. We all felt something together. Everyone in Central Park that night recognized something sacred.
And for that I am thankful. Since then I have often listened to Pavarotti late at night when I'm working. I've listened to a lot of music I would've scoffed at then...
Some artists have the power to move others in that way, even those not predisposed to their genre. These days, I have recordings of Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman, two artists whom purists would quickly label as "crossovers," but they have expanded my horizons. And at the core of that trend which is catching on to a new generation, is the voice behind the above rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria. No good Catholic boy over the age of fifty can listen to it with a dry eye.
At a time when Catholics are rediscovering their forsaken heritage, the power of reverence is in the spotlight. But the man who brought it to so many of us has moved on.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord...