When Pavarotti and Tracy Chapman stunned the world in a soulful operatic duet

19 March 2024, 20:10 | Updated: 20 March 2024, 20:29

Luciano Pavarotti and Tracy Chapman duet in 2000
Luciano Pavarotti and Tracy Chapman duet in 2000. Picture: YouTube

By Kyle Macdonald

When two musical worlds come together in a way that may be unexpected, but is undeniably perfect.

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During the late 1990s and early 2000s, great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti lent his peerless operatic voice to some of the biggest pop hits of the time.

His Pavarotti & Friends concerts and releases supported charitable and humanitarian causes, and also gave us many intriguing duets across the genres of opera, classical, rock and pop.

U2, Queen, Andrea Bocelli, Mariah Carey and the Spice Girls were among those who shared the stage with the opera great.

In the year 2000, one of Pavarotti’s duet partners was Tracy Chapman. Together at the Pavarotti & Friends for Cambodia and Tibet concert, the pair performed Chapman’s heartfelt 1988 ballad ‘Baby Can I Hold You’ in a coming-together of two musical worlds, with a magical result...

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

Tracy Chapman & Pavarotti - Baby can i hold you tonight LIVE

After the American singer-songwriter opens her song, the tenor takes his verses and phrases in his native Italian as the songwriter accompanies on guitar.

Even though the duet does not deviate from the restrained original feel of the song, there’s still a chance for the opera star to showcase his beautiful tone, vibrato and musical sensitivity in long, legato lines. It also highlights the exquisite genius of the song, in the yearning, softly rocking melody which mirrors that longed-for embrace in the lyrics.

The piece concludes with a delicate call and response between the two singers.

Over the final two decade of his life, the great tenor did attract criticism for his duets with non-classical singers, with some feeling that these performances cheapened the opera genre, and Pavarotti’s place as one of the great bel canto singers.

The singer himself swiftly dismissed all this. He once said: “Some say the word pop is a derogatory word to say ‘not important’ – I do not accept that.” Pavarotti added that the only thing that mattered to him was good music.

And with this coming together of two musical legends, we’re very happy he felt this way.