When Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli sang a glorious Neapolitan love duet in 1994

30 January 2024, 14:27 | Updated: 31 January 2024, 09:24

Pavarotti and Bocelli performing in Modena at his 2003 ‘Pavarotti & Friends’ concert
Pavarotti and Bocelli performing in Modena at his 2003 ‘Pavarotti & Friends’ concert. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Pavarotti’s charity concerts saw him join in harmony with great pop voices from Celine Dion to Frank Sinatra. But have you heard his 1994 duet with his protégé, Andrea Bocelli?

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In September 1994, two of the greatest tenor voices of all time were captured in an iconic duet of a Neapolitan love song.

The concert stage was in Modena, for the second of legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s high-profile charity gala concerts. Andrea Bocelli, then just 36 years old, had been invited by Pavarotti, who was nearly 25 years his senior, to sing the duet.

‘Notte ‘e piscatore’, which would feature on a live ‘Pavarotti & Friends’ album the following year, was written specially for the tenor duo earlier that year, by composer Maurizio Morante.

The pair’s voices complement each other exquisitely in the duet, the lyrical beauty of a young Bocelli’s combined with the powerhouse strength of Pavarotti’s.

Literally ‘The Night of the Fisherman’ in English, it’s a song of longing and a lost love. It almost makes you recall that beautiful line in Shawshank Redemption, from Morgan Freeman’s character, Red… “I have no idea to this day what they were singing about.

“Truth is, I don’t want to know. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it.”

Read more: When 17-year-old Josh Groban stepped in for Andrea Bocelli to sing ‘The Prayer’ with Celine Dion

Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli - Notte 'e piscatore (Live)

Bocelli performed at three of Pavarotti’s charity concerts, and after the elder tenor died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Bocelli was there once again to sing at a tribute gala.

In 2015, Bocelli told The Telegraph: “Pavarotti loved me. He called me [to perform] at his wedding and his wife called me again for his funeral.”

The younger tenor’s career was launched thanks to Pavarotti, and a song originally intended for him. Italian rockstar Zucchero crossed paths with Bocelli in 1992, when he held auditions for tenors to make a demo tape of his song ‘Miserere’, which had been intended for Pavarotti.

Pavarotti heard Bocelli singing on the demo, and urged Zucchero to have Bocelli sing it instead of him. Luciano told Zucchero: “Thank you for writing such a wonderful song. Yet you do not need me to sing it – let Andrea sing ‘Miserere’ with you, for there is no one finer.” Finally, they recorded it as a trio.

Read more: When Luciano Pavarotti sang with his 88-year-old father in an emotional duet

Andrea Bocelli - ‘Nessun Dorma’ (live at The Global Awards 2018)

Soon after ‘Miserere’ was recorded, Bocelli signed a record deal aged 34.

Throughout his career, Bocelli recorded a lot of the same Italian operatic repertoire as his mentor, from Puccini’s ‘Nessun dorma’ to Verdi’s ‘La donna è mobile’, and both were signed to the same record label, Universal.

In 2017, Bocelli told Alghad: “Even though he left us 10 years ago, his voice is always alive in everyone’s heart including mine.

“I have had the privilege of knowing him and sharing many memories with him, and each one of them is just as strong and alive today.”

Now, Bocelli’s voice has lowered into more of a baritone range, and of course Pavarotti left us in 2007. This remains one of those special duets between two legendary voices, and when two remarkable eras of vocal music were together in harmony.