RIP Luciano Pavarotti

It is incumbent on me as a tenor to stop and pay honor to the memory of Luciano Pavarotti, who died yesterday (NY Times, Salon). After all, Pavarotti gave the world of popular culture an understanding of what a dramatic tenor could do with his voice, and made opera and vocal classical music accessible through his sheer personality.

One might despair, however, about his long-term cultural impact. Vocal classical music and opera is more of a live performance phenomenon than a recorded phenomenon—and if you doubt me, ask your local classical radio marketing director how he feels about vocal music. And without recordings and radio play, all too often, a classical star’s presence dies with him. Consider Beverly Sills—when was the last time (before her recent passing) that you even heard her name in classical circles? Yet when I was growing up she was a household name.