Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Evening with Luciano Pavarotti

My evening with Luciano Pavarotti was a dark and stormy night,
November 16, 2002, an evening I won’t soon forget.
Attending this concert was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Pavarotti is on his Farewell Tour.
If I’m not mistaken, Raleigh, North Carolina, was one of only four cities in the United States where he performed on that tour.
How lucky for us!

First, let me tell you that my father who died in April of 1999 was a lover of music and also an admirer of Luciano Pavarotti. He very much wanted to see him and I had always said that if Pavarotti came close to our city I wanted to take my dad.
As it was, he didn’t come until November 2002 and it was bittersweet for me.
How happy I was to be there and how sad that my dad wasn’t there beside me.

That Saturday evening I, along with my husband, attended a pre-concert “Champagne Toast Reception”. Pavarotti was not in attendance. I understand he was eating North Carolina Barbecue in another part of the building.
At several stations around the room was Greek food and Italian food being cooked and served. The women were all dressed in their best and the men were in tuxedos. I think all men look very handsome in tuxedos - how about you?!
The music at the reception was a trio playing Italian music on guitars.
How my dad would have loved that!
He was taught to play Italian music on the mandolin by his Sicilian foster uncle in West Virginia.

Those at the reception were then taken to the auditorium where we would hear Pavarotti. We had wonderful seats…second row, center aisle seats. We were no more than fifteen feet from where he would be performing!
Accompanying Pavarotti would be the North Carolina Symphony. It was 7:00 pm - time for the concert to begin!
The symphony conductor appeared and said the concert would be delayed because of the heavy rain that night. Close by a few minutes later we overhead someone say they had heard that Pavarotti had to finish his garlic bread. I don’t know if that was a fact.
Then the lights went down and everyone grew quiet.
The music began and there was a deep “BOOM!” of a drum.
Out came Luciano Pavarotti and everyone stood and applauded and cheered! My heart was pounding! He was larger than life! Not his size - his presence. Then he sang. There are those who say he is not as good as he once was - I had not heard him before. I thought he was magnificent!
He sang two songs - one I recognized as being from Madame Butterfly. The other I didn’t know but it was beautiful. He was very passionate with his voice. At times it seemed he was crying and other times he would laugh as he sang. Even though I didn’t understand the language in which he sang - I understood the emotions. At the close of each of those songs the audience stood and yelled, “BRAVO!, BRAVO LUCIANO!

With him was a soprana, Renee Monti. I thought she sang very well. However, at intermission it was announced that she was not well and could not give her best and therefore would stop. Another soprana, Annalisa Paliyenko took her place and did she ever wow everyone. She looked to be only in her twenties. She made my hair stand on end and Larry said he had never heard anything like it. Apparently everyone thought the same. She got a standing ovation several times! At some points during her storytelling songs, her eyes would grow dark (we could see that because we had such wonderful seats!) and it sounded as though her heart was breaking at times. What a performance! I do think she will be famous in the near future.
Back to Pavarotti! He sang again and again. I had to fight back tears. Opera really gets to your heart. Then it was over - I could not believe it!
Already?! I didn’t want it to end … and it didn’t. Three times he came back to sing when we thought he was through. Each time he returned to the stage the drum repeated a reverberating “BOOM!”. The second time back out he invited the audience to sing along with him. What fun! He has a sense of humor also!
He said in his broken English. “No clapping!” during the sing-along. He knew it would be hard for us not to clap. We all were so excited we would just spontaneously clap and he would stop and look at us - then he would laugh. The third and last encore he sang “O SOL A MIO”. That is when I broke. That was my dad’s song. He sang it often. On one of my parent’s wedding anniversaries the family had taken them to an Italian restaurant where there was a singer. My dad sang that song with the singer. What a way to end a wonderful and unforgettable concert.

You might think that was the end of our evening with Pavarotti.
No, it wasn‘t!

No, it was not over for us! Now we would be going to a late supper with Pavarotti. Of course, there were about 500 others there having supper with him also.
The ballroom was gorgeous. Lit candles everywhere cast a magical glow and beautifully set tables were filled with sweet smelling flowers.

When Luciano entered the ballroom a roar when up!
He had changed from his formal clothes into a shirt, slacks and a very colorful scarf-like shawl around his shoulders and was wearing a white hat which somehow ended up on the head of Annalisa Paliyenko a little later.
He was seated at a long table on an elevated stage along with the two sopranos and members of the North Carolina Opera. He didn’t mingle with those of us who attended the supper. That disappointed me.

The food was wonderful. On the menu was Antipasto of tomato and mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma over baby greens with a balsamic vinaigrette and garlic bruschetta…that was the first course.
The second course was a maple marinated pork chop over a bed of root vegetables in a gorgonzola-shitake sauce, truffled potato, vegetable timbale, and grilled asparagus. The pork chop was the largest I have ever seen … very thick with a long bone. If I had been at home I would have just picked it up by that bone and ate it that way, enjoying every bite! Had to behave myself here however!
The dessert was unbelievable! It was a chocolate marquise topped with ganache and baked hazelnuts with white and dark coulis and fresh berries. To be honest, I don’t know what all the fancy names mean for the food we ate. I only know it was delicious!

Now our tummies were full as well as our hearts and minds. We had taken in a lot that stormy November night. It was something we had not experienced before and it is something we will not soon forget.

My daddy many times told me about Enrico Carruso and others who he enjoyed. He instilled a love of all things good in me. This night was one of those good things.

Photos property of D.Cashwell


Cheryl Merrell said...

I was so happy to find your blog.

I too attended the concert, and as you said, Annalisa was just outstanding, and if I recall, just happened to be in the audience that night.

I have since moved from the Raleigh area and truly miss everything there.

For years I have wondered the name of the mysterious and wonderful saprano that just put us all on end. Thanks to your blog I have it now and can look for her both on the internet and hopefully in a concert.

Good Luck to you. Enjoy NC for me. Its my second home.


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Anonymous said...

Great story. I played in the orchestra that night, and was blown away by the stand in soprano. I was thinking about that, and was trying to find out who she was and came across this page.

She was flown down from NY the day of the show as a back up in case something happened. The illness to the first soprano was a bit of a cover up. LP was not nice to her in rehearsals, and she was visibly shaken by it. She may have become ill because of that. She did crack a few notes on the first half.

LP was not fun to work with. He threatened to cancel the concert almost a dozen times for some really silly things. In the end, he generously gave each orchestra member four tickets to see the concert, but we all took at for what it was, a bribe to put up with his BS.

We had to rehearse during intermission, which was embarrassing for a professional orchestra. LP was very good, but it was so sweet to seem him upstaged by the stand in soprano, who was downright stunning, singing in front of 13,000 people with no rehearsal with the largest opera tenor of all time. A fun and interesting night for sure.

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