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Victoria Fine Arts members recall Pavarotti's visit to Crossroads

By Camille Doty
Jan. 7, 2012 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.


Luciano Pavarotti was not a fan of small planes. And with the late tenor's stature, it makes perfect sense. Victoria Fine Arts Association board members picked up the beloved Italian from Houston Intercontinental Airport. The trip back to the Crossroads was just as thrilling as Pavarotti's performance on April 22, 1978.

"It was fantastic," said B.E. Leissner. "It was probably the best road trip I've ever taken," said LeOlive Rogge.

Pavarotti said he was tired and wanted to rest and went to the back of the motor home.

But these Texas art enthusiasts had a pleasant surprise for "King of the High Cs." The proud group wanted to show Pavarotti the beloved bluebonnets.

He never heard of them. After gazing at the flowers breath-taking view, the famous performer nestled his way from the back of the vehicle to the window.

"Oh my gosh, it just goes on forever," Pavarotti said.

For the rest of the trip he talked about his wife and children.

"He forgot he was tired," Rogge said.

Rogge, the director of arrangements at the time, made food and lodging accommodations for performers. Pavarotti drank only Perrier water, which had to be purchased in San Antonio. He also requested dietary food and fresh fruit. Rogge packed "regular" food for the other travelers.

"He ate all the regular food, we ate the apples and the grapes," Rogge said.

Both Leissner and Rogge credited the late Joe Milam for bringing the talented tenor to Victoria. Leissner said Milam would go to New York to discover the new talent. Pavarotti came to the area for $17,500. The same week he made the cover of Newsweek.

The association hosted a press conference for Pavarotti's arrival. Reporters came from San Antonio and Houston.

The beloved singer noticed a bashful St. Joseph's High School student. He asked her did she have any questions.

The unidentified female wanted to know whether Pavarotti ever sang for the Pope. Pavarotti had an "aha" moment. It became his business to make it happen. He achieved his goal in 1979.

That night, the Victoria College Auditorium had standing room only; 35 chairs had to be placed on stage.

"We were the envy of the entire state of Texas," Leissner said.

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