My Own Story
with William Wright
Doubleday & Co., 1981
This marvellous book, My Own Story, is the first autobiography published by Luciano Pavarotti in collaboration with William Wright, in 1981. I say “the first autobiography” because some years later, Pavarotti wrote another volume, again with Wright, entitled My World, where he narrates the next years of his career up to 1995.
The first thing I would like to say is that I feel gratitude for this book, since it helps to restore the seriousness of Pavarotti as an artist when his image and even his voice (!) have been used many times for deploring commercial purposes (I remember an Italian advertisement of a snack with Pavarotti’s voice as soundtrack, but this is only one of many horrors…). My Own Story is a nice, sometimes funny but fundamentally serious book where we can recognize all the features we know or guess from Pavarotti’s performances: his joie de vivre (there are many pages about it and an explanation of its origin), his frankness and affability, which give to these pages so simply written an irresistible and friendly character.
I have to confess anyway that, when I opened the book for the first time and read the index, I was a little disappointed. My Own Story is not entirely written by Pavarotti, but it is similar to a collection of essays (but the chapters of this book do not resemble essays at all) written by many persons. I hoped all the book had been written by Pavarotti himself and that I would have read the entire story told by himself. My disappointment did not last longer, especially when I read the names of the “guest stars” who contributed to the work: who can protest when Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge, Mirella Freni and Giuseppe Di Stefano talk about one of their most illustrious colleagues?
Apart from the big names, I have to say that Pavarotti’s autobiography is one of the most coherent I have ever read about a singer. Pavarotti and Wright have worked on every chapter with the aim to be logical and devoted each of them to a particular feature or experience of the tenor, without inconsequential digressions as I found in the autobiographies of some of his colleagues. In this viewpoint, you may think of the part written by Pavarotti as the thread of the story (the “recitative”, if you allow me) and every part written by the “guest writers” as the explanation of an anecdote or of one or more facets of Pavarotti’s character (and these may be considered the “arias”). This makes the reading easy and pleasing and increases the value of the book.
The last thing I liked of My Own Story is that there is not self-celebration in it, not even in the words of Pavarotti’s colleagues or in those of his strict collaborators and of his (first) wife, but there is an effort to describe things with honesty and sometimes to think over those things with criticism. These reflexions are interesting for the reader, who can take the advantage to understand better the subject. Personally, I think that one of the most revealing reflections is at the beginning of the book, when Pavarotti talks about a childhood disease which almost killed him and the consequent development of his love for life, and there is another one of the same content in the chapter devoted to the plane crash in 1975.
I am sure many of you have still read My Own Story and I hope you have found in it the same pleasure I had. I hope also to review My World sooner or later.