Eclectic is the first word that comes to mind whenever I'm asked about my tastes in music. So does schizophrenic.
My iPod bares this out. It's loaded with a little bit of everything: Rock 'n roll, blues, country, classical, bluegrass, jazz, reggae, New Age, Broadway, Big Band, rhythm and blues, ragtime, salsa and even a little rap and hip-hop. Depending on my mood, I can click on just about anything.
Anything except opera. Never did like it much.
It wasn't that I didn't understand it. But there was just something about that type of music that simply didn't do it for me, and I used to cringe on those rare occasions when I had to cover an opera event.
But I finally did learn to at least appreciate the art form after a strange-but-enlightening chat with the world's most famous tenor -- Luciano Pavarotti.
|Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007.|
The day before he performed with soprano Mary Jane Johnson at what is now Boardwalk Hall in May 1996, I had wrangled a rare one-on-one television interview with the maestro.
As Pavarotti held court during a press conference at the former Merv Griffin's Resorts, we were busy turning the living room of his hotel suite into a makeshift TV studio. Just as I began reviewing some last-minute notes, the suite's double doors flew open and his entourage swept into the room, led by former Resorts entertainment vice president Tibor Rudas, who had left the casino a dozen years earlier to produce Pavarotti's concerts around the world.
Standing more than 6-feet tall and tipping the scales at better than 300 pounds, Pavarotti was, indeed, an imposing and larger-than-life figure. After the preliminary introductions, we took our seats on a sofa and prepared to roll some tape.
"Please, may I see?" Pavarotti asked in his thick Italian accent, gesturing to a nine-inch color monitor that photographer Dave Pashuck had wired to the camera.
Pash turned the tiny television around so Pavarotti could view his image. He didn't look happy.
"Is so small," he said. "Can I see bigger?"
Pash thought quickly. He dug into the gear bag and found a longer cable, which he connected to the camera and then to a jumbo projection screen television in the room.
Soon, Pavarotti's bearded face filled the 60-inch screen. He began shifting his position on the sofa, a little to the left, raising his head up and down and side to side until he was satisfied with his appearance. We began rolling tape, but before I could ask the first question, he pointed to the TV screen.
"You see that? I love her," he said.
"Love what, maestro?" I asked. "Your image?"
"No, no, I love her," he said with an impatient tone. "I mean the television."
Then he explained: Television made him opera's first true global superstar and helped introduce the art form to a worldwide audience. Prior to television, opera performers, no matter how popular, were limited in the number of people they could reach through radio broadcasts and album sales.
Aretha Franklin stops at the Taj Mahal Oct. 6. She chats with Atlantic City Weekly on her biopic, the upcoming presidential election, her favorite singers and a getaway long ago with Bob Dylan.