Education Week: Nathan Pacheco brings audience to their feet

Andrea Bocelli. Luciano Pavarotti. Plácido Domingo. All notorious, powerful opera sensations.

But there is another rising opera star who has been featured globally, performing for Prince Charles and with the San Diego Symphony, and touring with Greek pianist and composer Yanni.

And he’s a BYU graduate.  

Nathan Pacheco, a classically trained tenor, gave an emotionally stirring performance on Thursday evening in the Pardoe Theater of the BYU Harris Fine Arts Center. 

It was his third out of four performances for BYU Education Week, all of which have quickly sold out.

Pacheco opened the night with singing, “Don’t Cry,” which he co-wrote with Italian composer and pianist, Leonardo de Bernardini “Leo Z.,” followed by the well-known Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah,” which Pacheco accompanied himself on the guitar.

“Our goal tonight is to make you happy,” Pacheco said. He explained that one of his favorite things to do is sing with a choir, and then invited the audience to act as his “choir” and sing back-up for another song, “Avatar.”

Though Pacheco mainly sings an operatic style, he also has an admiration for pop singers, including Ed Sheeran. 

Sheeran’s video of a duet of his hit song, “Perfect” with Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli caught Pacheco’s eye. 

Pacheco recently did a cover of Sheeran and Bocelli’s duet with American Idol winner and singer-songwriter David Archuleta. Pacheco performed that cover live for the engaged audience, and sang both his and Archuleta’s part, switching gracefully from English to Italian, again inviting the audience to sing along.

Pacheco also astounded the audience with a passionate performance of “Nessa Dorma,” an Italian love song popularized by the late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti.

Audience members sat in awed silence as Pacheco powerfully projected and controlled his incredible operatic, vibrato-filled voice. At the conclusion of the song, the audience erupted into claps and cheers, exclaiming, “Sing it again!” “You’ll make us happy!”

Although Pacheco didn’t perform that particular song a second time, he did share a humorous story with the crowd. He had once met a southern lady who had heard he was a vocalist and requested that he sing for her.

He explained to her that he doesn’t sing “country,” but his style is the opera genre. After he performed for her an Italian piece, she said, “Uh, do you reckon you can sing that in American?”

“Every time I sing Italian, I think of food, and that story,” Pacheco chuckled.

Switching over to a pop genre, he invited audience members to join him on stage as he sang “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman.”

“I love a good sing-a-long and audience participation,” he said. “It makes it more enjoyable.”

After introducing the next song, “Oceano,” Pacheco handed the microphone over to his pianist, Leonardo de Bernardini “Leo Z,” an Italian native who has previously worked with Josh Groban, and the writer of the song.

He explained that the song title means ‘ocean.’

“It’s a love song,” Leo Z said. “It’s about two people not being able to see each other. And if you really believe in dreams, that distance which is as big as the ocean can become very small.”

Throughout the night, Pacheco reinstated his own love for dreaming.

“I love to dream,” he said. “I love to listen to my favorite songs, and dream. And not put any limits on myself.”

After the last performance, which was Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye,” and as he came back on stage for a final bow, a woman in the audience exclaimed that she wanted to know more about HIM. How long he had been married to his wife, how long he has lived in Nashville, why he decided to pursue a singing career.

Pacheco agreed with a smile to answer the questions, and shared that a turning point for him was a speech given by Elder Holland at BYU in 2004. Pacheco was especially touched by this quote,

“God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But he can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.”

That gave Pacheco the inspiration to fulfill his dreams, and opportunities seemed to then fall into place. Since then, Pacheco has had much success in life, but, inspired by the Italian song, “Caruso,” has realized what matters most.

Pacheco explained that in the song, the artist realizes that all the fame and money is eclipsed by love – that’s what matters most.

“I believe with all my heart that the way to live the happiest life possible, now and forever, is covenants,” he said. “Covenants and family.”

As Pacheco prepared to end the performance once again, an audience member requested Pacheco sing “Caruso.” He turned to his pianist and cellist, asking if they had the music for it, and they promptly shook their heads “no.”

“It’s just those four or five cords, I think it’s just an E-flat minor,” Pacheco said to the pianist as the audience laughed. Being extremely talented musicians, they improvised and quickly figured it out, without previously rehearsing it with each other, and delivered a powerful, emotional performance.

Afterwards, Pacheco’s ‘actual’ final song was “The Prayer,” which he and David Archuleta released as a duet during Christmas 2015.

At the conclusion of the passionate English and Italian song, the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation. Cheers and whistles echoed throughout the theater, demonstrating audience approval and enthusiasm for Pacheco’s memorable and astounding performance.

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