In opera circles it is widely agreed that Pavarotti would have done well to retire, as had the late Beverly Sills, before his vocal resources had declined too precipitously. During his prime — roughly the late 1960s to early 1980s — he possessed not only that unmistakable, burnished voice, but also a superb sense of musicianship: a strong vocal attack and clean release; the energy to renew a note’s energy with every throb of the vibrato; and the flexibility to sing with great ardency or with the melting tenderness that Italians call “morbidezza” — the sound a great hero makes when dying of love.
Here is Pavarotti, in one of his last performances in February of last year, where, according to the article quoted above, he is “at his nadir”- just notice how his voice rises in its crescendo, even during the ‘nadir.’ The man had some voice!
The nadir came in February of last year at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Enveloped in a tentlike black cape, looking like a sad, oversize Count Dracula, the once-great tenor warbled his signature aria, Puccini’s “Nessun dorma,” transposed down from its original key so that the triumphant high B was only a B-flat.