Pavarotti and football (5): The very first Three Tenors concert in Rome, July 7, 1990

The very first Three Tenors concert was held in Rome, Italy on July 7, 1990. After that first concert many more Three Tenors concerts followed, but this first one will always stand out as special. For many reasons.

The joint concert between the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the two Spanish tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras was a surprise as the three tenors, and in particular Pavarotti and Domingo, were considered as tenor rivals.

The concert was put together on relatively short notice as a charity concert and to mark the world football (soccer) championship (FIFA World Cup) which were held in Italy in the summer of 1990. The concert itself was held at the eve of the FIFA World Cup Final in Rome.

The concert venue was indeed spectacular as the concert was held at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome, which for years had been used as an outdoor arena for opera performances. The orchestra of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the orchestra of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma was conducted by Zubin Mehta.


The three tenors sang four arias and songs each. Among them, Pavarotti sang Nessun dorma! in glorious voice! From that very moment “Nessun dorma!” became a modern football anthem, forever associated with Pavarotti.

The great surprise of the evening was that the three tenors also sang a medley of arias and songs together. An encore of ‘O sole mio followed, and an impromptu joint performance of “Nessun dorma!” concluded the concert. Needless to say, the concert was a huge success and started the Three Tenors phenomena.

The concert was broadcasted live on TV and radio in many countries, and in the days and months that followed on TV all over the world. The audio and video recording of the concert was issued about a month later. The audio album is to this day the biggest selling classical album in world history. The concert is still available on Decca in every audio and video format known to man (except for Blu-ray), and it still sells over 20 years after its first release.

After the 1990 concert The Three Tenors held many more concerts together during the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ve managed to count 36 Three Tenors concerts in total. In 1994, 1998 and 2002 The Three Tenors held their FIFA World Cup concerts. Several Three Tenors audio and video recordings followed.


The very first Three Tenors concert in Rome, July 7, 1990 will always be special. It will never be forgotten. To remember that magic evening here is Pavarotti singing Torna a Surriento, followed by The Three Tenors singing “‘O sole mio”, first from the medley, then as the encore.


This post was first published 07-07-2013 with the title “The very first Three Tenors concert in Rome, July 7, 1990”. Last revision 11-07-2014.