Luciano Pavarotti, in severe pain months before his cancer diagnosis, lip-synched his last performance, according to the maestro who conducted the aria at the opening ceremony of the Turin Olympics.
The late tenor’s manager said Monday the bitter cold made a live performance impossible at the 2006 Winter Games.
The conductor, Leone Magiera, reveals in a book that the rousing rendition of “Nessun Dorma” (“Let No One Sleep”) was prerecorded because “it would have been too dangerous for him to give a live performance in that physical condition.”
Magiera, who worked with Pavarotti for years, said the tenor was suffering from sharp pains months before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was using a wheelchair. Pavarotti died in September 2007. He was 71.
“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.”
Pavarotti recorded the famed aria from Puccini’s “Turandot” in a studio in his hometown of Modena a few days before his February appearance in Turin, Magiera said. The orchestra prerecorded its part separately.
“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.”
Magiera did not elaborate on why Pavarotti was using a wheelchair. He stood during the Turin performance.
Pavarotti’s former manager, Terri Robson, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the decision to lip-synch was made because of the cold during the outdoor evening event.
The singer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2006 as he was preparing to leave New York to resume a farewell tour. Pavarotti underwent surgery in New York in early July, and his remaining 2006 concerts were canceled.
Earlier that year, Pavarotti postponed five June dates because of what was described as complications from back surgery. He canceled eight concerts in April, saying he had been advised not to travel or perform while undergoing back treatment.
Robson said the tenor’s voice was “in great shape ... but because of the extreme late-night temperature in Turin in February, for both him and the orchestra, it was decided that the only way to make it work was for him to pre-record.”
Pavarotti lip-synched a performance in 1992 in Modena, drawing heavy criticism.
His charismatic persona, ebullient showmanship, and powerful voice made him the most beloved and celebrated tenor since the great Caruso and one of the few opera singers to win crossover fame as a popular superstar.
He appeared in television commercials and sang in hugely lucrative mega-concerts outdoors and in stadiums around the world, also mingling with pop stars in his series of charity concerts, “Pavarotti & Friends.”