Music has been an important part of the World Cup ever since The Three Tenors’ legendary performance 20 years ago.
On 7 July 1990, at the close of the World Cup in Rome, the three greatest tenors of the day, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti joined forces to perform to thousands of people in the ancient ruins at Caracalla.
Together with conductor Zubin Mehta, the Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino they performed classics such as Leonard Bernstein’s Maria, 'O sole mio and of course Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot.
The concert raised money for Carreras’ Leukaemia Foundation and took place shortly after his recovery from the disease.
It was previously unthinkable that opera would feature at the biggest international football event, but The Three Tenors were instant hits and became a regular fixture at the World Cup, performing in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
Nessun Dorma in particular gained massive popular appeal and Pavarotti’s release of the aria went to Number Two in the UK Pop Singles Chart in July 1990.
In 2006, Plácido Domingo (minus Carreras and Pavarotti) opened the World Cup in Munich, joined by the city's three orchestras, the State Opera, Philharmonic and Bavarian Radio, conductors Zubin Mehta, Christian Thielemann and Mariss Jansons, Lang Lang and soprano Diana Damrau.
The Three Tenors Spin-offs
Numerous groups have modelled themselves on The Three Tenors, including The Ten Tenors, Three Canadian Tenors and Three Mo’ Tenors. This last features three young black tenors, one from South Africa, one from Texas and one from New York. They aim to inspire young black people, who may be surprised to see black opera singers, to pursue their dreams and consider professions they might never have thought of.