Back around 1971-72, I began to become aware of Pavarotti for the first
time as a wonderful, bright-voiced tenor with enormous promise. Having
been an avid Bjorling fan and having seen him a dozen times or so in the
fifties, I thought to myself, this is the only tenor I know of who is
worthy to be included in the tradition of outstanding tenors stretching
from Caruso through Pertile,Gigli, Martinelli, Schipa and Bjorling
(including others, too, I'm sure). I was excited.
I lived in Princeton at the time, and heard a radio interview with Herbert
Breslin in mid-1972 indicating that Pavarotti would be giving a concert in
Carnegie Hall, date to be announced. I got busy on the phone and called
Carnegie Hall. The people I spoke to had no knowledge of this. I finally
called Breslin. He was very cordial, and said details hadn't been
finalized yet, but to write him and he'd get back to me when all
arrangements had been firmed up.
The grand finale is ... he didn't lose track of this, he did what he said
he would do. Months later he honored his commitment to an unknown
individual of absolutely no importance, and I wound up with six seats,
front row, absolute dead center, for Pavarotti's debut recital of February
18, 1973, at Carnegie Hall. (Breslin also told me he had a wonderful
pianist I might also want tickets for, Alicia de la Rocha. Sadly, my
budget would not allow any more tickets.)
The recital was a thrilling experience I still recall vividly. I was very
enthusiastic with my bravos all through the concert, and being directly in
front of him only 6 or 8 feet away, only air in between, we made lots of
eye contact. He surely understood that he had great support from me. I
like to think it helped him a little. And I swear to this day that
Pavarotti smiled directly at me and threw me three big kisses at the end of
the concert. I have no doubt of it.
A P.S. to this story. Only two or three days later I was browsing in Music
Masters on West 43rd and heard some tantalizingly familiar music. At first
I couldn't place it. Soon, it was clear. This was a tape of the recital
I'd heard only a couple of days earlier. So I bought that tape, and I
listen to it still to this day.
Breslin was as nice as could be. Patient. Didn't yield to whatever
pressures he might have had to give theose premier seats to someone else.
He didn't act the big shot. He kept his word. He was a good guy.
Thanks to him, the early bird got the worm.