Although I'm no connoisseur of opera, like anyone I know a great voice when I hear one and the loss of Luciano Pavarotti's tenor -- already legendary in his lifetime -- is a wound to the music world.
The singer died overnight at his Modena, Italy home. He was 71.
Pavarotti's battle with pancreatic cancer was no secret and he underwent surgery for it last year while in New York during a farewell tour.
I was lucky enough to see Pavarotti perform during one of his two Milwaukee concert performances. He performed twice in Milwaukee, and I heard him sing at the second one, in the cavernous MECCA Arena (now the U.S. Cellular Arena) in February 1992.
When I heard he was coming, I had to do, despite my paltry income as a part-time reporter at a daily paper. I bought two tickets and coaxed a friend into going. We didn't have great seats, but could see the heavy-set Pavarotti and his trademark hanky pretty well.
His voice echoed around the huge space, losing definition, but maintaining its passion as Pavarotti sang a crowd-pleasing mix of arias and Neapolitan songs. It was likely the kind of show that makes opera purists shudder, but there were thousands of appreciative listeners on hand.
Five years later, spending a night in Modena, I sort of hoped to catch a glimpse of the singer zipping through the piazza in a Ferrari, but it didn't happen.
When I heard yesterday that Pavarotti's condition was worsening rapidly and that he was surrounded at home by friends and family, I already felt a sense of loss for the music world-- Pavarotti was an eager champion of young singers -- but I was happy to know that he and I were once in the same room together -- albeit a very, very large room.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.