Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Operamania 101: Big Lucy

This is for all the sports junkies out there who may think what's opera have to do with football? And by football, I mean "footie" or soccer to most North Americans.

Well, perhaps prior to 1990, the 2 worlds went together like chalk and cheese.

But that was before Luciano "Big Lucy" Pavarotti stepped onto the pitch with his lung-busting performance of the epic show-stopper Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Nessun Dorma, which translates to "None Shall Sleep", became the signature tune for the BBC's coverage of that year's World Cup as English fans watched their teams make it all the way to the semi-finals.

Football and opera were Pavarotti's passions. His father was a tenor and as a boy, Pavarotti was a goalkeeper and winger of his town's football team. But his love for football was edged out when the choir that he performed with won first prize at the Llangollen Festival, an international competition in Wales.

By 1990, Pavarotti was a famous opera tenor. But his fame broadened to celebrity status when he performed as one of The Three Tenors during the World Cup, thus entwining football and opera together and winning him legions of new fans. Football fans who may have never heard opera before. Football fans who have made the Nessun Dorma aria the most widely-played football song ever.

With closing lyrics of "Vanish, o night! Set, ye stars! At dawn, I will win!", it's no surprise this aria became an anthem of conquest.

For his final performance before his death in 2007, Pavarotti chose Nessun Dorma for the finale of the opening ceremony at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. The 35,000 strong crowd responded with a thunderous standing ovation.

The spirit stirring and heart soaring Nessun Dorma will forever be Luciano Pavarotti's signature song.

~ Ling Chan

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