When Pavarotti sang 9 consecutive high Cs live at the Met Opera and it was glorious

30 September 2020, 11:20 | Updated: 30 September 2020, 11:31

When Pavarotti sang 9 high Cs live at the Met Opera
When Pavarotti sang 9 high Cs live at the Met Opera. Picture: YouTube/OperaMyWorld

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

They didn’t call him the King of the High Cs for nothing…

Luciano Pavarotti is remembered as one of the greatest tenors of our time.

He took a joy in singing that unfailingly rubbed off on the audience. And that expansive, ringing sound that he projected to the back of the hall is, for many opera lovers, yet unparalleled.

Live at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1973 Pavarotti was performing in Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, and the time came to sing ‘Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête!’ – an aria that’s been called the ‘Mount Everest’ for tenors.

Also known as ‘Pour mon âme’ (‘For my soul’), the aria has nine high Cs in the space of about a minute.

Read more: Operatic dog duets perfectly with Pavarotti on ‘Nessun dorma’ >

The ninth, final C is only a dotted crotchet in the sheet music, but with a pause over the top. And you can bet Pavarotti, just as he does at the cadenza of ‘Nessun dorma’, takes a moment to… indulge, a little (watch above).

His Cs have an extraordinary ‘ping’ to them, and there’s something incredibly free about the way he takes on this mountain of an aria.

The performance ends with a final, shining high C – steady as a rock, and with a power you didn’t even know the human voice was capable of. All you can hear after that is rapturous applause. No one did it quite like Luciano…

Pavarotti’s second wife, Nicoletta Mantovani – who recently married again in a beautiful Bologna ceremony – spoke about her late husband in an interview with Classic FM last year.

Luciano Pavarotti as Tonio in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment
Luciano Pavarotti as Tonio in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment. Picture: Getty

“He was really open hearted and really gave himself to the audience; to the public that loved him. And I think that love is still there, circling”, Mantovani said of Pavarotti.

She also recalled a profoundly beautiful distinction the great tenor used to make, when talking about his life-long love and career. “He always said opera is not really about ‘training’… really, it’s a devotion.

“For him, singing was really serious and something he dedicated his life to.”

Oh to have been there at the Met in 1973...