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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Transcript of Pavarotti interview
Lend me a tenor: Paxman interviews Pavarotti
A full transcript of the interview between Jeremy Paxman and Luciano Pavarotti broadcast on 12 September, 2005

Jeremy (voice over) His career has lasted more than four decades and no top flight singer has done more to popularise the art's most celebrated tunes.

Jeremy: What do you look back on as particular highlights of your operatic career?

Pavarotti: Let's say, the beginning, I am an elementary school teacher. And on 21 April, 1961 I became a tenor. That is a very, very significant date for me. Musical experience. To be able to sing the entire opera in front of an audience with orchestra and with the staging, quite something. That was something, and at the end of these, I say to myself: If you are singing like that and becoming better and better you can make this a profession.

Jeremy: What happens to an opera singer that makes you think: I must stop doing this?

Pavarotti: Well, generally if the opera singer is around 50 or 60, it's terrible. But at my age, it's beautiful. It's perfect, fantastic! No regrets, no regrets. I think the important thing is to sing very well until you sing. And have the voice fresh like my father did. My father was a great tenor. Beautiful voice. And he was fresh until two weeks before he died at the age of 90.

Jeremy: Some people say you should have retired some time ago?

Pavarotti: Well, some people are probably right!

Jeremy (voice over) It takes increasing artifice to hide the passage of time but age and ill health cannot be denied forever. For many he will always be seen, though, as the King of the High C's.

Jeremy: What is the worst thing that has happened to you during that time?

Pavarotti: Which time?

Jeremy: When you look back on this great operatic career which is now coming to a close. What are the things you think: God that was a nightmare?

Pavarotti: It was a constant pleasure, even...

Jeremy: When things went wrong?

Pavarotti: Yes, so what? The things went wrong, I am a very optimistic human being in one sense, yes, but I like the truth. So liking the truth, twice they booed me off stage in Milan because I was not singing my best. But they give them the opportunity to do it. So I have to be honest with myself. So why should, should I be a very unhappy?

Jeremy: You have never forgotten a part, for example?

Pavarotti: Absolutely. The same precise moment I forgot. I don't think I remember how it happened, and where I was.

Jeremy: What happened?

Pavarotti: It happened and I was not in great shape so the voice did not come out pure, and you know, when you have a voice of a lyrics tenor, the purity of the voice is telling you everything. If he is good he's very good. If he is little less he's a little less.

Jeremy: Can you settle something for me, I have read you barely read music. Is that true?

Pavarotti: Depends what you mean. You can say that I barely read the score for the orchestra. That, yes. But the tools you buy for the tenor, piano, no. I read perfectly.

Jeremy (voice over) Pavarotti is credited with bringing opera, or opera tunes perhaps to, new audiences. 100,000 heard him in Hyde Park in 1991. He sold 100 million albums and collaborated with all sorts. He maintains that sort of performance helps the charities he believes in. But it's also attracted critics.

Pavarotti: The critics are my best friend. The critic is my drive. It's the driver who tells me where I go wrong. A constructer, something who is working in making the thing better.

Jeremy: But will you be glad to stop performing?

Pavarotti: No

Jeremy: Will you miss it?

Pavarotti: No. Happy to stop, I am sure not. Missing, even I'm sure not. Because I am very busy. I am not missing it already, when I am not on the stage. So, no, it's something that is coming regularly, and with a lot of beautiful companies like my daughter, like my students, like my friends.

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