The newly discovered Pavarotti recording: Perhaps not so newly discovered after all?

August started with what looked like very good news for Pavarotti fans. Several sources reported that a newly discovered Pavarotti recording is to be released officially by Decca for the first time. In fact, we are talking about Pavarotti’s first ever recording (!).

The recording in question is Pavarotti singing “Che gelida manina” from the Puccini opera “La Bohème”. The recording was made in the early years of his career, and to quote the Decca press release: “lay in Luciano Pavarotti’s own personal archives for 50 years. It was only after his death that the recording was unearthed by his widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, and the aria has now been re-mastered and is now made available to the general public for the first time.”

A reasonable interpretation of the Decca press release suggest that the recording was from Pavarotti’s début on the British TV show “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” on August 25, 1963. This is also how music journalist Petroc Trelawny understands it in an BBC interview (see the video). Trelawny dates the recording to “the early 50’s” which must have been a slip of the tongue for “the early 60’s”.

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An article in The New York Times starts out by stating that the recording was from the 1963 TV show, but confuses its readers by going on talking about another early Pavarotti recording from 1961: “The performance was recorded by colleagues at the Reggio Emilia Theater, in Italy, where Pavarotti had made his professional debut in “La Bohème” two years earlier, and given to Pavarotti, who squirreled it away in his personal archives.”

This is confusing! Is the recording in question from 1963 or 1961? If it’s from the 1963 TV show it’s indeed good news as it hasn’t been available before, at least to my knowledge. If it’s from 1961 then it’s probably Pavarotti’s operatic debut at the Teatro Municipale di Reggio Emilia, the opera house in Reggio Emilia, Italy on April 29, 1961. And then it’s not the recording sensation it looked out to be.

This recording has always been regarded as Pavarotti’s very first recording, but has in fact been available unofficially since the days of vinyls, and complete recordings of this performance is available today on CD and download, easily obtainable from Amazon and elsewhere. The history of this particular performance and the recording of it is also quite a well-known part of Pavarotti history. Read the story here.

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However, Decca will release the recording of Pavarotti singing “Che gelida manina” as part of a two-CD compilation, “Pavarotti: The 50 Greatest Tracks”. The title of the album says it all about its content. No other unknown Pavarotti recordings are included, but all 50 tracks are digitally remastered at 24-bit. And that’s a good thing I’ve heard.

And by the way: The track information on the Amazon page also supports my conclusion that the recording in question is from 1961 (CD 1, track 26). When comparing the newly discovered Pavarotti recording on SoundCloud with a YouTube recording of the 1961 debut, it sounds very much the same to me. What do you think?

At first this looked like great news for Pavarotti fans, but I dare say it is not. It looks like this newly discovered Pavarotti recording perhaps is not so newly discovered after all. Or could it be that the recording in question is none of the above?

This Pavarotti recording offers many more questions. We will have to see if more information surfaces the weeks ahead. Maybe the booklet on the two-CD compilation will tell us more. It will be released in September this year. Anyway: Odd Pavarotti is confused!

This post was originally published 03-08-2013. Last revision 03-08-2013.

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