In this sentence – Pavarotti was known as much for his larger than life personality as he was for his voice – please explain "larger than life".
Why not, let's begin with Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). The Italian tenor1, one of the best opera singers of his generation, is better known in China as one of the Three Tenors2 (José Carreras and Placido Domingo being the other two) who performed in the royal Palace in Beijing. Pavarotti also shared the stage with pop singers (Pavarotti with Friends, including notably3 Bryan Adams), something few classical musicians would stoop themselves to do. In 1993, he sang for 500,000 fans in New York's Central Park. The next year, he performed under the Eiffel Tower in front of 300,000 Parisians. And in 2003, at the age of 68, he married his former secretary Nicoletta Mantovani....
Before giving definitions, let's bring on more people who are considered larger than life. Albert Einstein was larger than life – his influence went far beyond physics. Louis Armstrong was and remains5 larger than life – he epitomizes jazz. Yao Ming is larger than life – the guy is 7-foot-6, for starters. Michael Jordan is certainly larger than life – it sometimes felt that he was bigger than the NBA in his playing day. Mahatma Gandhi was larger than life despite his small stature6 – he brought down the British Empire and closed the entire colonial era....
These people have all been described as larger than life. Do you see a common thread?
They are unusual. They're extraordinary. They're uncommon7. They seems larger than (what we experience in everyday)life. Their achievements seem enlarged, exaggerated and unbelievable. Wilt8 Chamberlain, for instance, once scored 100 points in one game. In another, he grabbed 55 rebounds9 alone. Ask Yao and he'll shake his head – One-hundred points and 55 rebounds, come on. No-one will be able to duplicate these numbers (the 55 rebounds especially) ever if they don't change the rules.
Anyways, you get the idea what it means to describe people or things to be larger, or bigger, than life.
Here are more media examples.
1. A headline:
Composer is larger than life; concert isn't
- Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2007.
- What is it about Wagner? The Sunday Times, August 5, 2007.
3. Long before Elvis Mitchell's last movie review for the New York Times was published, on April 30, it was clear he'd been hired to play against type. Mitchell, over six feet, with two-foot-long dreads11 (which he tends with Kiehl's products), robed in Costume National and Helmut Lang, will never be your average be-khaki'd Timesman. He's bigger than life, or at least bigger than most print journalists, a road show of pop-culture exuberance12 who makes the rounds of TV shows, film festivals, and lecture appointments, hobnobbing with stars and industry figures.
- Elvis and His Times, New York Magazine, May 3, 2004.
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