Luciano Pavarotti and Magda Olivero Perform – Chapter14

Pavarotti was 6’2″, but he seemed to not be very tall, as he was extremely wide and solid as a brick. Between scenes of the opera, he would consult with a coach in the side wings of the stage. The coach would express himself in a very animated manner, and strike Pavarotti on the chest with the palm of his hand. It was like hitting a brick wall. Pavarotti did not move a millimeter. He just stood there and engaged in the discussion, while this coach was hitting him with significant force right in the chest. I imagine they were discussing technique, but I do not speak Italian. Pavarotti has posted entertaining videos on technique, one of which you can watch HERE. Also, Ron Howard has made a documentary of his life, which is available HERE. Additionally, HERE is a very entertaining conversation about embarrassing moments in his opera career.


HERE is a summary of the career of Magda Olivero. I did not find any links for recordings of her singing. She seems to have been overlooked by the recording industry. One explanation may be that she was from an earlier era that valued melodrama, which did not go over well in the modern era.


The friend who hired me to be a Super in the operas was Don Palumbo. (I used a different name in the book, as I changed the names of most people who were not famous.) Don is the one who took over as director of the Chorus Pro Musica when Alfred Nash Patterson died. He put in years of work to improve his directing, working with the Dallas Opera, and traveling to Salzburg, Austria every summer to take part in the music festival there.


He also worked with the Boston Opera when they hired the Chorus Pro Musica to be the slave chorus in Aida. Part of the score calls for the chorus to sing off stage. The problem would be how to direct the chorus to sing in time with the orchestra. It was solved by having a video camera on the orchestra conductor, with the image placed on a TV monitor back stage. Don was standing on a step ladder, so the chorus could see him. As he watched the video, he directed us to sing in time with the orchestra. It is a very vivid memory for me, because I was so proud to see my friend directing as part of the Boston Opera. Little did I know how far Don would go.


I lost track of Don after I moved from Boston to California. Then one Saturday decades later, I listened to the credits at the end of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast, and they announced the Chorus Master of the Metropolitan Opera, Don Palumbo. I had no idea. I looked up on the internet, and sure enough there are videos of him teaching how to prepare opera choruses. HERE is an interesting recent interview.


For me, dressing up in a costume and being part of an opera, leaves very enjoyable memories. I especially liked being part of the Aida performance, because I did it with about 80 friends.  It makes it a lot more fun to do it with a lot close friends. I have back stage pictures that were taken of us in costume and makeup, showing us having a great time.