Ciao, Maestro: Farewell to the Horse-Loving Tenor

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One of the world's greatest sounds--the tenor notes of Pavarotti--has been silenced. The world's most popular opera singer--and perhaps most popular musician of any genre--died of pancreatic cancer yesterday. He singlehandedly re-introduced opera to a new generation of fans all over the world...but did you know about his connections to the horse world?

Luciano Pavarotti's love of horse sports began in 1960 when he was 25. That year, the Olympic Games had taken place in Rome and the D'?Inzeo brothers had won the gold medal for Italy in show jumping.

"?My general love of the horse became a particular one ?for jumpers,"? Pavarotti said.

He bought his first horse in Ireland, and started riding himself. ? ?

"Donkeys, cats and dogs are small, but horses are big, even bigger than me. Horses are a challenge,?" he said? and enrolled his three daughters and other household members in the renowned Irish Kellet Riding School.

His love of the animal and sport grew. "?I became a nut, a nut of the horse. One day [Mr. D'?Inzeo] suggested I should have my own show and I became even more of a nut," Pavarotti recalled.

And so from 1992 to 2001, a CSIO in Modena, at Pavarotti?'s own equestrian center, would be held over four days in June, directly after the Pavarotti and Friends Concert, which featured, of course, The Three Tenors, but also Sting, Mariah Carey, U2, Lionel Richie, B.B. King, The Spice Girls and Ricky Martin. These concerts were held in support of Warchild, for the benefit of children in war-torn places like Tibet and Bosnia.

Although there were external sponsors involved, the event--the Grand Prix of which boasted the largest prize pot in Europe--was funded and underwritten by Pavarotti himself.

Upon hearing the sad news of the Maestro'?s death, German show jumping star Ludger Beerbaum said, "?It is an enormous blow for all of us riders whom he welcomed so warmly every year at his show, and concert. We are all in shock, and extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to his family and loved ones in these hard times. He will leave a huge gap in our lives and we will miss him terribly. He was a gift to the world of music, but also a true friend to the show jumping family.?"

(Thanks to Malina Gueorguiev and the FEI for help with this post)

I remember vividly Pavarotti's role as ambassador to the press at the 1996 World Equestrian Games in Rome. I still have a photo of him, with the signature scarf around his neck.

Architect's plan of Pavarotti's equestrian center/concert field near Modena, Italy.

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