I was just a little rodent when the dust jacket of one of Mom's LP records caught my eye. On it was a photo of a large, dark-haired man wearing a garish clown suit and beating a bass drum. I didn't know it at the time, but the man was Luciano Pavarotti, and the album would become Mom's best weapon for chasing me out of the house. Ironically, I would go outside for the same reason she put on the record: to get some peace and quiet.
Years later I was living in a short-term apartment with no cable TV to entertain me while I cooked dinner. Desperate, I put on the PBS station and found myself paying more and more attention to the live broadcast of the Three Tenors concert from Europe. After dinner I was sufficiently amused at my interest that I called the ranch and said, "Mom, I'm watching opera -- and, uh, it doesn't quite suck . . ." I didn't know what was coming over me. I feared that I might eat brussels sprouts next.
The concert didn't make an opera fan of me, but it gave me some insights. Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras would screw up their faces and bear down on the big notes, while Luciano would just stand there and belt out his lyrics with a calm, direct gaze at the audience. He looked almost menacing. Watching the other two highly accomplished tenors gave me an appreciation for the great difficulty of their art. Luciano, however, wasn't like that: he made it look easy.
Mom has been saying for years that Luciano was clearly past his prime, no longer able to sing with his old strength and hit the high "C" note that he used to reach with apparent ease. Still, the passing of this opera superstar must be a sad event for her. Maybe I'll call the ranch again.