On the 50th anniversary of his first recording for Decca, the Australian maestro reflects on the tenor and his legacy.

It was 50 years ago, on September 21, 1963, that the legendary Luciano Pavarotti made his first major international opera appearance, deputising for an indisposed Giuseppe di Stefano at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. That performance brought him to the world’s attention. It also marked the beginning of the 27-year-old singer’s relationship with Decca, the label he recorded with for his entire career, marking one of the longest exclusive relationships an artist has ever experienced with a major label.

Pavarotti was associated with many great artists throughout his prolific career, but few relationships were as long-lived or as fruitful as his partnership with the late Dame Joan Sutherland and her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge – indeed, Bonynge was one of those who engaged Pavarotti right at the start and his recollections of the great singer go back to the very beginning of his international career.

In an in-depth anniversary interview, Limelight caught up with Maestro Bonynge at his home in Sydney to find out what Pavarotti was really like, how he functioned in the rehearsal room and what he will be best remembered for today. While Bonynge didn’t always agree with the direction the tenor took in his later career, in this ‘warts and all’ discussion, he puts his finger on the source of Pavarotti’s geatness as well as reflecting honestly on his inherrent flaws.

Universal Music present Luciano Pavarotti: The 50 Greatest Tracks – out now.

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