Rare Video Captures 29-Year-Old Luciano Pavarotti in One of His Earliest Recorded Performances (1964)

Some­times it’s hard to believe that cer­tain enter­tain­ers did not arrive ful­ly formed with their famous look already part of the act. It’s still weird to me, for exam­ple, to see very ear­ly George Car­lin, look­ing like a nephew to the but­ton-down com­e­dy of Bob Newhart. You might get the same shock see­ing this very early—possibly the first, but not verified—televised appear­ance of mas­ter tenor Luciano Pavarot­ti.

In this archived clip from Sovi­et tele­vi­sion, the future opera super­star looks more like come­di­an Jack­ie Glea­son than the beard­ed, icon­ic fig­ure he would become. Those eye­brows are work­ing over­time, though.

The year is 1964, only three years after his pro­fes­sion­al debut in a region­al Ital­ian opera house, where he played the lead, Rodol­fo, in a pro­duc­tion of La Boheme. It was also a year after his first major accom­plish­ment, sup­port­ing and singing with Joan Suther­land on an Aus­tralian tour. He was yet to have an Amer­i­can pre­miere, and was still try­ing to make a name for him­self.

This above clip, a jaun­ty and con­fi­dent take on Verdi’s “La Don­na e Mobile” from Rigo­let­to, shows all the youth­ful promise in his 29-year-old voice. Com­pare and con­trast below his 1982 ver­sion from Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s film ver­sion of the opera. It’s sweet­er and Pavarot­ti has less to prove, firm­ly estab­lished in the fir­ma­ment of singing stars. The song remains the same, but this ear­ly glimpse into Pavarotti’s career shows he knew he was going places, but just need­ed that chance to prove it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pavarot­ti Sings with Lou Reed, Sting, James Brown and Oth­er Friends

New Web Site, “The Opera Plat­form,” Lets You Watch La Travi­a­ta and Oth­er First-Class Operas Free Online

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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