The Heartbreaking Story Behind Luciano Pavarotti’s Last Public Performance

In the world of opera, the tenor known as Luciano Pavarotti was a bigger than life superstar who took the art form to new levels. His passion and incredible voice resonated in our souls and memorized even those who were not opera fans. Pavarotti may his debut in 1961 at the Teatro Reggio Emilia, delivering an unforgettable performance as “Rodolfo” in a production of “La Boheme.”

In 1963, he would make his American debut in Miami, Florida, in the critically-acclaimed production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” It wasn’t long before Pavarotti became a household name and a bonafide international superstar. He would go on to make countless television appearances and recordings, bringing the art form of opera to never-before-seen heights of popularity.

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Sadly, after a long and storied career, Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had become confined to a wheelchair shortly before passing away in September 2007 at the age of 71.

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However, in February 2006, at the Olympic opening ceremony in Turin Piedmont, Italy, Pavarotti graced the stage one last time. But, we should be noted that according to his manager, the tenor was in excruciating pain and was really in no physical condition to sing that night. But, being that this was such an important event for his country and perhaps the final time he’d get to perform for his fans, the artist decided to lip-sync a soul-stirring edition of “Nessun Dorma” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot.”

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As conductor Leone Magiera explained, “it would have been too dangerous for him to give a live performance in that physical condition.” The conductor, who had worked for Pavarotti for many years, said that the tenor had been experiencing sharp pains for several months before his diagnosis in the summer of 2006.

“The orchestra pretended to play for the public there, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing,” Magiera writes in “Pavarotti Visto Da Vicino” (“Pavarotti Seen From Close Up”), which was published last month. “It came off beautifully, no one was aware of the technical tricks.”

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You can watch Luciano Pavarotti’s last public performance in the video below.

A few days before his final public performance in Turin, Pavarotti recorded his portion of the song in a studio located in his hometown of Modena. According to Magiera, the orchestra prerecorded the part seperately.

“His voice was nearly intact,” Magiera recalls in the book, published by Ricordi. “He found the strength to repeat it until he was completely satisfied. Then, he fell back on his wheelchair and closed his eyes, exhausted.”

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Considering how much pain he must have been in, it’s nothing short of remarkable that Pavarotti was able to record such a flawless performance, let alone lipsync it with perfect accuracy and passion.

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Knowing this takes absolutely nothing away from this great legend’s last performance; in fact, it only further endears him into the hearts of his millions of fans worldwide. Please be sure to pass this story on to your friends and family.

Credit: Today