Right now, Luciano Pavarotti is still the greatest Italian lyric tenor in sight and likely to remain so for a while - but his recital yesterday afternoon at the Kennedy Center indicated that problems are beginning to crop up for that extraordinary voice.
His fans may be partly to blame; he was held for 20 minutes of encores and ovations after a long, demanding program. In the third encore, "Unafurtiva lagrima," the voice sounded too tired to be asked and "Nessum dorma" worked very well under the circumstances.
At its best, working on the swirling tarantella rhythms of "La Danza" and the pure schudtz of "Cielo & mar," the voice was magnificent - as good as it was remembered from a 1976 recital here. But it took a while to reach that peak, and there were small problems in reaching it that many point to larger problems in a few years.
The opening "arie antiche" were unduly dry in tone and a few high notes were only approximately on pitch. Tone production was less even in these works than one experts in a singer of this caliber, and sometimes there was a very perceptible break in continuity as the voice shifted from one register to another.
In compensation, Pavarotti's musicianship seem to be growing. Beethoven , Lisxt and Gluck (all with Italian tests) have been added to his earlier repertoire. The Lisxt settings to two Petrarch sommets (besides giving pianist John [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a chance to show he is no mere accompaniest) made serious vocal demands that were well met. Unfortunately, Gluck's "Che faro seiza Euridice" came out sounding more like a warmup exercise than the enormously moving music it is.