High C is a Drink Best Served Bold

Pavarotti had blend of talent, self-confidence to hit hard note
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2007 5:00 PM CDT
Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti performs in the desert near Mexicali, Mexico, as part of the city's centennial celebration in this Oct. 18, 2003 file photo. Pavarotti, whose vibrant high C's and ebullient...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Pavarotti’s obits called him “King of the High C’s,” a nickname he earned for hitting a note that many tenors have to fake in falsetto. “It’s the absolute summit of technique,” says a coach. “More than anywhere else in your voice, you have to know what you’re doing.” The alluring note has made and ended operatic careers, and even helped drive one star to suicide, the New York Times reports.

Pavarotti joined the ranks of “High C” tenors by knocking out 9 in a row in a performance of Donizetti’s Fille du Régiment at the Met in ’72. "The moment I actually hit the note, I almost lose consciousness," he said. "A physical, animal sensation seizes me.” One expert claims that the note generates such excitement because “it’s based on the human cry. You’re pulled into it.” (Read more Luciano Pavarotti stories.)