Luciano Pavarotti, the iconic Italian tenor who managed to sell millions of records even though he was an opera singer, died last night at his home in Modena, Italy after succumbing to pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
The obits posted his morning range from breathless to critical as writers try to celebrate the singer and convey his immense popularity while apologizing for some of his choices.
Tim Page of The Washington Post writes, "Behind the huggy-bear, ‘I'm just a happy, regular overweight Italian guy who loves to sing' persona was a great and serious artist." He then calls him "a maddeningly lazy interpreter" a few paragraphs later.
Writing in The New York Times, Bernard Holland also takes a bizarrely critical tone, saying not only that Pavarotti wasn't that smart and that serious opera critics despised the Three Tenors, but including a whole section on "Ailments and Accusations" in which he calls Pavoratti fat, points out his proclivity to bail on performances, and reminds everyone of the time he was caught lip syncing at a concert in Modena. Later in the piece, Mr. Holland notes that some thought Pavarotti's bad health was just a "smokescreen" for his failures, and quotes a Times critic who accused him of "shamelessly coasting" through a recital in which he'd forgotten some lyrics.
The Post is much nicer–yes, nice!–saying unconditionally that Pavarotti was "regarded as the greatest tenor of our time," and that the beauty of his voice "made him the ideal interpreter of Italian arias, Neapolitan songs and Christmas classics."
The Daily News is similarly respectful, referring warmly to Pavarotti's "effervescent personality," and noting that he was "known by a single name for the power of his singular voice."