Pavarotti was occasionally dismissed as a simpleton with a freak instrument. This was absurd. Pavarotti was a marvelous musician, though not a schooled one. He was a natural. Anyone can acquire the schooling; musicality is not for sale. It has always been said — whispered, snorted — that Pavarotti can’t read music. I, for one, was always skeptical of this claim. First of all, millions of schoolchildren around the world can read music — it’s no big deal. Second, how could Pavarotti function, in his career, without reading music? It’s on the order of functioning in the literary world without being able to read words.
Not long ago, I had a chance to speak to someone close to Pavarotti, a colleague (who adores him). “Would you put a myth to rest for me?” I asked. “What about this ridiculous notion that Pavarotti can’t read music?” “He can’t,” replied my source. “He really can’t” — which, of course, makes Pavarotti’s achievement all the more remarkable. He has a phenomenal memory, a phenomenal ability to absorb, repeat, intuit.
I guess that's like a great poet who can't really read.