On this day in history….30th July 1991

On this day in history : 30th July 1991 – To celebrate thirty years in opera, Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti gives a massive free concert in Hyde Park….

It was set to be the biggest outdoor music event in Hyde Park since the Rolling Stones had performed there in 1969…. Some 250,000 people were expected to attend Pavarotti’s celebratory concert…. Some had camped overnight to get the best vantage points in the 50 acre site…. Although billed as a free concert it was possible to purchase VIP tickets at £400 each….

Luciano Pavarotti – Image credit : Pirlouiiiit CC BY-SA 2.0

However, the weather was not on the side of the concert goers…. Between 100,000 and 150,000 turned up and stood in the pouring rain to watch and listen to Pavarotti’s performance of twenty arias, including Verdi, Puccini, Bizet and Wagner…. The VIPs, among them Diana Princess of Wales, Prime Minister John Major and Michael Caine, got just as wet as everybody else…..

By the end of the evening 193 people had received treatment from St. John’s Ambulance after suffering the effects of the wet and cold….

On this day in history….18th June 1822

On this day in history : 18th June 1822 – An 18ft bronze statue of Achilles is unveiled in Hyde Park, London…. Originally it was nude and caused outrage – so a small fig leaf was added….

The statue was made by sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, who was an enthusiast of the Ancient Greeks and it was to commemorate Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington…. Achilles was the Greek hero of The Trojan War and the statue used 33 tonnes of bronze repurposed from captured French canons…. The body was modelled on a Roman figure found on Monte Cavalio in Italy – and the head was based on the Duke of Wellington himself…. It was cast in Westmacott’s foundry in Pimlico….

The statue, which is located close to Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner was the first statue to be installed in Hyde Park – and London’s first nude statue! It had been commissioned for £10,000 by the upper class society of ‘Ladies of England’ and was installed on the orders of King George III…. People were shocked and disgusted by the statue’s nudity – especially as it was a tribute from the ‘Ladies of England’…. A fig leaf was quickly added for modesty….