Pavarotti, a Voice That Will Never Die

Deal W. Hudson
September 6, 2007

We all awakened this morning to the news that the greatest voice of our generation, Luciano Pavarotti, had died.

The sound of his voice is something that I have carried inside my head since my early 20s when I first heard him sing La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. I heard him sing at the Met several times in the early 70s when he was beginning to become a superstar. There are several of his Puccini arias I can hear from beginning to end without playing an LP, VCR, CD, DVD, or MP3. I just close my eyes and listen.

I had already discovered him from his first recordings, the obscure opera L’Amico Fritz on Angel Records (now EMI) and the Italian singer’s aria from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (did he ever sing anything more beautiful than this?). From that time forward, until the kitschy “Three Tenors” Concert, I never missed a Pavarotti CD or televised concert. His recorded La BohemeTurandot, and Tosca did not disappoint.

I’m one of few people who defend the film he made with Kathryn Harrold, Yes Giorgio, which I thought was very entertaining and presents the voice in its prime. The title song, written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is a great Mario Lanza-type of crossover piece (before it was called “crossover”) and should be reissued in commemoration of his death.

After I watched the 1990 “Three Tenors,” I stopped following Pavarotti. The voice was in decline, though the passion and concentration were still there. His glorious rendition of “Nessun Dorma” reminded me of the more youthful singer I had heard at the Met and earned him fame in the world of popular music during the 1990 World Cup.

It’s wrong to say, however, as I saw in one headline this morning, that Pavarotti was the last of the “great voices.” Yes, he stands in a line of recorded tenor voices from Caruso through Tauber, Pertile, Gigli, Corelli, Schipa, Schmidt, Martinelli, McCormack, Melchior, De Stephano, Del Monaco, Wunderlich, Bjoerling, Bergonzi, and Domingo (among many others). We have great voices with us today.

Check out the recording of the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon who, in my opinion, is the best of the present generation. Marcelo Alvarez, Joseph Calleja, Juan Diego Florez, and Ramon Vargas are also worth hearing, too. For the pure visceral thrill of the man who died yesterday, Villazon comes the closest. For the pure beauty of the voice, try the Maltese singer, Calleja.

(By the way, you can see and hear some of these great singers of the past and present for free on www.youtube.com. I took a spin through their classical videos the other day, then suddenly realized a few hours had passed by and I hadn’t noticed.)

But Pavarotti had everything – power, beauty, thrill, and meaning. He embodied each area, each song, and every character he played (in spite of his girth).

I hope retrospectives of his career will focus on the period from the late 60s up until 1990 and treat the rest as a footnote. Surprisingly, some of his best performances from that period are not available on DVD and CD. One DVD that is available is the stunning Verdi Requiem, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, from 1967.

Pavarotti’s “Ingemisco” from the Latin Requiem is what I will watch today as I pray for his soul.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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