The Music Column

The Pavarotti Effect

I have been told that there is something called the “Pavarotti Effect,” and that this phenomenon is observable and definable.  Perhaps sometimes the Pavarotti Effect was an affect, or perhaps it was subsumed by the “Superstar Effect,” as Sherwin Rosen called it in a paper published in The American Economic Review in 1981.  Rosen insisted that a big reputation would lead to a cornering of the market, when a particular name seems the answer to the problem of product selections: If you are going to acquire only one DVD of Turandot, then you will get the “outstanding” one with Pavarotti.  The options of other once-respected performers are cast aside, and the ostensible freedom of the market becomes something less than free.

Well, was the late Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) a Superstar?  Though he was not so to me, I have to concede that he was to many thousands of others.  He paid a price for the distinction, even as it paid him—if such an evaluation was positive in any particular way.  After establishing the basis of his career in the 1960’s, Pavarotti had an operatic success in the 1970’s; by the 1980’s, he had gone to another place.  Success within the limits of the repertory and even within the limits of his idiosyncrasies was not big enough for him.  Pavarotti was terribly full of himself, both literally and figuratively. ...

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