By Robin Lodge, Regional Public Information Officer, Jordan
As the sun set, the rocks of Petra turned from orange, to rose pink, then slowly to purple, and the Prague Philharmonia struck up with the overture of Rossini’s Barber of Seville, filling the natural theatre with sound.
The audience of 500 people sat spellbound, seemingly aware that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while a picture of a beaming Luciano Pavarotti oversaw proceedings from two giant screens.
It was a night for the stars, both in the sky above and on stage. Jose Carreras came on to tumultuous applause, followed by the third of the Three Tenors, Placido Domingo. To see and hear them live on stage, in such a magnificent yet intimate setting, was an amazing privilege. HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan was at the magical event.
But for me at least, even those two giants were eclipsed by the performance of Andrea Bocelli, the Italian operatic pop tenor. Other performers from the operatic and classical world included sopranos Angela Georghiu and Cynthia Lawrence, the baritone Sherrill Milnes and flautist Andrea Griminelli, all of whom shared a close friendship with Pavarotti and had performed with him on numerous occasions.
Pavarotti’s close circle of co-performers also extended into the world of pop and rock, here represented by Laura Pausini, Zucherro, Jovanotti and Sting. As well as performing at the concert, they had all also attended a special ceremony the previous evening to celebrate the life of the Maestro, set against the magnificent backdrop of the ancient Petra Treasury.
All spoke of their fondest recollections of Pavarotti, painting a vivid picture of this larger-than-life musical genius, a man with boundless charm and overbearing persuasiveness, who was also a dedicated humanitarian, performing in numerous concerts to support charitable causes around the world.
It was therefore appropriate that proceeds from this concert and the accompanying fundraising campaign will go to support a joint WFP-UNHCR project to help some 150,000 Afghani refugees returning home from Pakistan to rebuild their lives.
UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, speaking on behalf of both UNHCR & WFP, thanked Nicoletta Mantovani and HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, a UN Messenger of Peace, for their support.
The project will focus on the most vulnerable families, women and children, as well as those communities finding it hardest to cope with the impact of high food prices. Schools and kindergartens will be constructed and named after Pavarotti.
Petra will also benefit from the concert, with funds going towards a centre for people with special needs, a children’s library and an adventure playground.
While Pavarotti himself never sang in Petra, it was an idea he had discussed on a number of occasions with another close friend, the late King Hussein of Jordan. Walking away from the concert under the moonlight at the end of this spectacular night, one could only feel that their dream and been fulfilled.