Pavarotti Revisited

He Finds Love, Success In Later Years

In 1993, there were rumors that Luicano Pavarotti, one of the greatest tenors of our time, had hit the twilight of his career. Critics said he was too fat, and that his voice had begun to crack.

Nine years later, at age 66, Pavarotti is still around, set to perform Tosca at the Metroplitan Opera House in New York. But before he tackled that role, he took a six-week vacation on the Caribbean island of Barbados, where Correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed him for an update on that 1993 story.

When Wallace first met Pavarotti, the tenor was feeling the pressure of the critics and doubters.

He said singing was still a joy. "Otherwise, I would not do now, at my age, when everybody is trying to kill me," he told Wallace. "Every newspaper is there ready to say when I am going to die."

Not long before, at La Scala in Milan, Pavarotti failed to hit the high notes in the second act of "Don Carlos," a performance that opened the city's opera season. The president of Italy was in the audience. The loggionisti, the temperamental fans who sit in the upper balconies, booed him.

Pavarotti claimed then he was not offended. "They give all their love to the opera," he said. "They think that they are the ultimate judge of what is going to happen there, and they think to have the right to applaud or to boo. And if you want to know my opinion, they are right."

During that 1993 interview, a luncheon alfresco with his extended family, Pavarotti ate and drank modestly. He was on a 2,000-calorie daily ration to curb his alleged 300 pound-plus weight that had always put extra pressure on his right knee, the one that had been operated on earlier. It had made some operatic parts difficult and painful for him.

His wife of 30 years, Adua, had learned to tolerate Pavarotti's eccentricities. "He's impatient," she said. "Impatient, yes. Cannot - cannot stay concentrated more than 10 minutes."

When he sat down with Pavarotti recently, Wallace spoke about the tenor's New York Central Park concert, attended by a half-million fans and transmitted to 47 countries as a TV special.

"You can't forget that," the tenor said. "You cannot forget that. No, this is a moment, like you say before, this is a moment of truth. You sing like that, the audience applauds."

There was lots of applause for Pavarotti a year ago when he marked the 40th anniversary of his stage debut - in "La Boheme" - with a concert in Modena, his home town. It was a banner year for Pavarotti but a year overshadowed by a big tax problem. The Italian government had charged him with avoiding millions in taxes. He went to trial, risking a prison sentence, but was vindicated. When his tax problems were over, Pavarotti continued with his concerts.

But by far the biggest development in Pavarotti's life in the last nine years has been his separation from Adua and his new life with Nicoletta Mantovani, 32. It was a scandal in Italy when Pavarotti, still married at the time, took up with Mantovani.

"Now I'm used to that," Mantovani says of the scandalmongers. "And at the beginning I was so young that I didn't realize that what was happening."

When they first met, Mantovani was studying for her Ph.D. in biology and her passion was insects, not opera.

She says she knew who he was, but "it was always turning channel when he was on. Because I couldn't stand the opera and couldn't stand him, you know?"

For Pavarotti the unexpected happened: "I fall in love, right away."

Asked why he fell in love, and with someone who did not like opera, the tenor responds, "If you know why you fall in love, you are not in love. Is it true?"

They've been together for nine years and endured the sneers and the snickers, the health problems - Pavarotti's had hip and knee replacements - the critics and the tax problems. Once his divorce is finalized, he hopes to marry Mantovani and have children with her.

The woman who didn't like opera has become Pavarotti's artistic director and is responsible for his annual Pavarotti & Friends' benefit concerts which are held in Modena, Italy, where the tenor is joined on stage by some of the biggest names in pop to aid poor youngsters around the world.

The two have begun to plan for that day when Pavarotti says arrivderci to the stage. Within the year, they say they plan to start work on an international school for singers with Pavarotti as maestro.

As for his life today, Pavarotti says, "I am happy. I am not jolly. I am happy."
  • Mary-Jayne McKay

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments