In this story from March 1985, the world-renowned tenor shares how he came to embrace the gift God had given him.
- Posted on Oct 11, 2017
When I was a boy, my father was a baker and my mother worked in a cigar factory. My father introduced me to the wonders of song. Our house was filled with recordings of the great tenors—Caruso, Gigli, Pertile, Schipa, Bjoerling, Tucker, all of them.
When I was growing up, either the record player in our apartment was going full blast or Father and I were singing. He had a fine tenor voice; still has. He was the church soloist and sang in all music productions in Modena, our hometown, a small city in Italy’s Po Valley. In Modena, everybody sang. We had our own opera house. Imagine! A 1,200-seat opera house in a town of 100,000 people.
Mother loved my singing. “Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” she’d say. But she thought I should become an athletic instructor because I was so good at soccer—or at least an accountant.
My father urged me to develop my voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said, “practice harder, and then maybe...”
I sang two songs for Arrigo Pola, a teacher and professional tenor in Modena. He agreed to teach me without fees because he found some qualities in my voice which he thought should be developed. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating I again asked my father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?”
“Luciano,” my father said, “if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”
I chose one. It took seven years of study, hard work, frustration, rejection before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera.
I was blessed with a good voice by God. I think it pleased Him that I decided to devote myself to it. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, driving a straight nail, writing a book, whatever we choose we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.
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In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader