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Lip service
April 7, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Sure, it's old news when Britney lip-synchs, but I reckon nobody really expected Pavarotti to lip-synch his his very last performance.
posted by flapjax at midnite (33 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
From the story, sounds like it wouldn't have happened any other way, but it's still a bit disappointing. I sorta wish he had just gracefully bowed out with an explanation of why another live performance wouldn't work.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2008


Anyone who looks askance at this has never spent time around terminally ill people. I found the story moving.
posted by rotifer at 3:55 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This shouldn't be about "OMG Pavarotti phoned it in ZOMG"

The man wanted to sing for the honour of his country and for the spirit of the games. That alone elevates this story above anything on pop-tart starlets trying to make more money at a shitty show.

He overcame exhaustion and probably pain in order to record the audio. He also stood up in front of a live audience to perform. He didn't mime it because he was lazy, he had to do it because his body probably couldn't handle it any other way.

This was human triumph, don't soil it by framing this as something else.
posted by phyrewerx at 4:13 PM on April 7, 2008 [11 favorites]


Ok, that was harsh, and this was an interesting post. Still, there shouldn't be any comparison between lipsyncing out of convenience and doing so because of health.
posted by phyrewerx at 4:15 PM on April 7, 2008


Absolutely phyrewerx. The man was talent personified and this article pained me. I know about the work and toll that proper classical singing takes on a healthy body and I know that his heart was broken to be reduced to this. I applaud him for this performance and the thousands of others with which he gifted us. RIP
posted by pearlybob at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2008


.
posted by The White Hat at 4:48 PM on April 7, 2008


That show was in an open-air ice rink in below-freezing remperatures.

No classical singer could give a beautiful performance in those conditions. Least of all an aging, ill Pavarotti, for whom the stakes would have been much higher.

Any sane person would have advised Pavarotti to do precisely as he did. I still say bravo.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:57 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd say give Pavarotti much benefit of the doubt, even praise him for it; that his contribution to the art form justifies his wish to still please an audience during his dying days. Whereas, I'd say give Britney a break because y'all haters set her up to knock her down.

And LEAVE FLAPJAX ALONE! (Pre-emptive, just in case anyone has anything other than the sense that f@m posted this for the goodness of the piece than the ZOMG's. I hope!)

Thanks.
posted by not_on_display at 4:57 PM on April 7, 2008


He should perform every year, as an animatronic.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on April 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


Dude. Fuck that. I say everybody attending should get their money back. For god's sake - the orchestra was fake playing.
posted by phaedon at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2008



Dude. Fuck that. I say everybody attending should get their money back. For god's sake - the orchestra was fake playing.


Hell yeah! The sun wasn't even out; they used artificial lighting!
posted by davejay at 5:36 PM on April 7, 2008


On a freezing February night in 2006, an ailing Luciano Pavarotti rose from his wheelchair at the opening of the Turin Winter Olympics to give a resounding rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma, his final public performance before he died of cancer last September.

Ah, 'Britain's Got Talent' winner Paul Potts really singing live his rendition of 'Nessun Dorma.'

Trivia -- the Welsh mobile phone salesman Paul Potts once took a much cherished master class with Pavarotti whom he had first impersonated in a karaoke competition in 1999.
posted by ericb at 5:46 PM on April 7, 2008


I'm having some Occam's Razor trouble with this. This would mean that not only did Pavarotti lip-sync the performance, so did the full orchestra behind him. Add to that any number of sound engineers, stage managers, show runners, etc. involved and in the know this should amount to, what, 40-60 people at the least who knew about this at the time.

I'm not saying it's impossible that all of them stayed mum, just that I think it's unlikely. At least more than a handful people will have had a stake in, or been indifferent to, breaking their silence and setting in motion a rumour chain.

Interesting story, but I'm skeptical for now.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:34 PM on April 7, 2008


Also, I'm one of those people who's passionate about, or at least likes pretty much any musical genre but Just Doesn't Buy Into opera, but isn't Nessun Dorma just the best fucking song ever?

I know it's become a musical cliché and all, but really, it just doesn't seem to lose its power for me. I couldn't buy a coffee in Italian, but damn, those words: the framework of opera granting the lyricist a bizarre premise doesn't hurt, of course - I always can't help but smile at "No one will know his name / And we must, alas, die" - but even beyond that the raw sex and romance of the protagonist's role in this premise - "My name no one shall know/ On your mouth I will speak it" - and, most prominently, the concluding man-shouting-at-astronomical-phenomena lines of "Vanish, night! / Set, stars!" lend it such a heroic, cathartic feel, it gets to me every time.

I'm probably gay.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2008 [5 favorites]



This kind of thing might be happening more often than you'd expect. Here's one version of an oft told tale of a performance of one of Frank Zappa's 'classical' compositions -- While You were Out/Art. (Scroll down to the blurb from Keyboard magazine.)

An entire ensemble miming a live performance to a recorded Synclavier. In the 80s. Got decent reviews, too.
posted by Herodios at 6:53 PM on April 7, 2008


Pavarotti often performed pieces that were transposed down a step (or two) late in his career, making his high Cs high Bs or less.

Not quite as transgressive as lip-synching, but that certainly required the collusion of the entire orchestra. Few in the audience would know.
-
posted by Herodios at 7:04 PM on April 7, 2008


Pavarotti frequently faked performances, as far back as 1992.
posted by Nelson at 7:10 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


At least the man knew he couldn't perform his best at the rather chilly live event. He just didn't whip out the old Victrola behind the curtain trick; he recorded a fresh version, doing several exhausting takes, specifically for the event. Bravo!
posted by Gungho at 7:29 PM on April 7, 2008



To clarify, I didn't post those links to pile on Pavarotti. Just saying that these things are done, and not just with 'superstars'.

And Nelson, your link is identical to one of mine, and it says nothing about faking performances. Just that when he wasn't up to it, they'd transpose. And that late in his career, was often not up to it. Like:

"Last year he sang a 'Tosca' with a fever of 103
and strep throat -- and no announcement. . ."

It's an interesting story from a number of angles. Pavarotti's fame transcended opera fandom (or whatever less-loaded term you prefer). Many people I'm sure wanted to see/hear him perform regardless of any great knowledge or even interest in opera.

Sure, the easy take is to see it as ego-stroking for him to stand up there and pretend to still have it. Only he'd know. But he was also doing his extended public the great favor of at least appearing to give them more -- the last morsel, as it developed -- of what they wanted. Even if that meant being propped on his mount like El Cid (Nice cross-reference to Chas. Heston, eh?)
-
posted by Herodios at 8:27 PM on April 7, 2008


Pavarotti frequently faked performances, as far back as 1992.

From Nelson's post/link:
"Mr. Pavarotti's part in this two-hour event was small, but the BBC paid for the real thing and wants some of its money back. Mr. Pavarotti says he did it [i.e. 'had silently moved his mouth'] because he had had no time to rehearse."
I'm having some Occam's Razor trouble with this.

The Razor just may cut the other way!
posted by ericb at 8:32 PM on April 7, 2008


Dye job, too.
posted by dhartung at 8:46 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've had sex with all three of the tenors and I know that Pavarotti isn't the only one to fake it.
posted by peeedro at 9:15 PM on April 7, 2008


So? Marcel Marceau did the same thing.
posted by Floydd at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


And Nelson, your link is identical to one of mine, and it says nothing about faking performances.

Herodios, you're mistaken. Those two NYT links have strangely similar identifiers (clearly not a cryptographic hash at work there) but they are entirely different articles. And the second article does say that he was caught lip-syncing in 1992.

To everyone who thinks there is nothing wrong with this, how would you feel if you'd paid to see and hear a live performance and got a pre-recorded one instead? Why isn't this type of thing considered fraud?
posted by finite at 11:47 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else think Paul Potts is a reeeeeeeeeeeeally unfortunate name?

Memorable, though, I guess.
posted by loiseau at 12:34 AM on April 8, 2008


I'm having some Occam's Razor trouble with this.

Quit using the razor wrong and you will have less trouble with it.
posted by srboisvert at 2:24 AM on April 8, 2008


lol - what a fake.
posted by FidelDonson at 2:29 AM on April 8, 2008


For god's sake - the orchestra was fake playing.

I've heard orchestras play outdoors in winter, and it's not pretty. Fingers get numb, brass and woodwinds go out of tune, and the brass also tends to 'crack' on important notes. Puccini + farting noises from the brass section + international TV = trouble. If they mimed, it's no wonder.

isn't Nessun Dorma just the best fucking song ever?

Only Puccini would start the third act with an aria called "None Shall Sleep."
In other words, yes.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:18 AM on April 8, 2008



Herodios, you're mistaken. Those two NYT links have strangely similar identifiers . . . but they are entirely different articles.

Right you are. Wrong I was.

[Nelson's] article does say that he was caught lip-syncing in 1992.


So I see. Perhaps I can save face by pointing out that that information serves my earlier point -- that this kind of thing happens in 'classical' music.

how would you feel if you'd paid to see and hear a live performance and got a pre-recorded one instead? Why isn't this type of thing considered fraud?

Depends. How would you feel if you knew that many contemporary 'classical' music recordings are frankensteins patched together from hundreds of best take edits of a few measures length? It's done for the same reason as electronically enhanced 'live' performances -- 'We can play this, just not reliably.'

From Nessun Dorma at the Olympics to lip-synching on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, there are always elements of art, entertainment, commerce, and spectacle in presenting music. Everyone has different ideas about the proper mix at any given moment.

Given the specifics of the moment, I think Pavarotti got it right. In his day, he could certainly handle the piece. And performing Nessun Dorma at the 2006 Olympics was something of a career curtain call for him -- he'd got a lot of attention from people outside of opera by singing it at the 1990 World Cup.

If it had been me, I might have insisted on an ethical fig leaf -- a 'portions pre-recorded' notice or some such. Or he could have simply shown up, taken his bows to approximately the same amount of acclaim and presented a younger dude -- Bocelli, perhaps, since he was there -- to do the performance. Who knows?

But now he's dead, I don't think he needs to give back his Grammys over this -- girl, you know it's true.
-
posted by Herodios at 7:06 AM on April 8, 2008


this kind of thing happens in 'classical' music

It mostly happens with singers who try to continue performing live well beyond what their bodies will allow them to do. Throats age. The fact that for the last 15 years Pavarotti was often faking it speaks to the danger of anointing someone "best tenor ever" and then having them milk it far beyond what they're capable of.
posted by Nelson at 7:49 AM on April 8, 2008


This would mean that not only did Pavarotti lip-sync the performance, so did the full orchestra behind him. Add to that any number of sound engineers, stage managers, show runners, etc. involved and in the know this should amount to, what, 40-60 people at the least who knew about this at the time.

I'm not saying it's impossible that all of them stayed mum, just that I think it's unlikely. At least more than a handful people will have had a stake in, or been indifferent to, breaking their silence and setting in motion a rumour chain.


As a stagehand, I can say without fear of contradiction that this happens all the time. I don't have much experience with orchestral music, mostly more on the rock and country side. But I've had some, and across all genres, many performers use varying levels of pre-recorded tracks, from music the band isn't playing; to vocal "help," should the singer's voice give out; to straight-up lip syncing.

Rather than thinking of it along the lines of how x number of people "had to keep mum," perhaps it will help if you think about how this happens so often that it's unremarkable to the crew, and that we don't necessarily keep silent, it just doesn't rise to the level of even mentioning anymore. I think in some cases we're more surprised when everything's live.

Hell, I worked a show a few months back with a really popular opera singer. He lip-synced the whole thing, and it was played extra loud to give the audience the impression that he was a powerful singer. I listened to them talking as they filed out, and not only was no one the wiser, they were all amazed at how great he was.
posted by nevercalm at 8:50 AM on April 8, 2008


That's a good point nevercalm. I was kind of working on the assumption that because it's classical, it's more of a faux pas, hence etc.

But I guess I was just being more paranoid than usual.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2008


Depends. How would you feel if you knew that many contemporary 'classical' music recordings are frankensteins patched together from hundreds of best take edits of a few measures length? It's done for the same reason as electronically enhanced 'live' performances -- 'We can play this, just not reliably.'

Most people who buy classical recordings are already aware of this. That is why a 'live' recording is listed as such.

For people who are saying 'what is the problem'? Well, part of the appeal of live opera to afficianados (and live music of all sorts) is the skill in actually performing it - the ability to project your voice that far, the ability and stamina to last that long, the 'waiting for a car crash' moment as you hold your breath waiting for the french horn soloist to crack on an important note (well, maybe that is just me). That is why you pay a lot to see a live concert rather than buy a recording.

The thing with that Pavarotti performance - I would bet a lot of people in the audience didn't really care about opera. They were buying into the brand. So for them, it wouldn't really matter - they went to 'see' Pavarotti, not 'hear' him, so they got what they wanted.
posted by Megami at 8:13 PM on April 8, 2008


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