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Emmanuel du Pontavice, Luigi Pavarotti and Me

By William Tetley, Q.C.

Professor Emmanuel du Pontavice of the Sorbonne, Paris, was the epitome of style. Besides being a renowned authority on sea, land and air law, he was tall, slim, charming and the grandson of a Polish Count. He lived in the apartment building where Gertrude Stein had lived and he did everything with refined grace.

He had visited our home in Montreal in 1981and a year later, when I was in Paris, he invited me to lunch in the elegant garden restaurant of Le Bristol, the leading hotel in Paris.

We were late because du Pontavice had had to lecture that morning and when we arrived, the restaurant was full of diners of the chi-chi international set. Only our reserved table at the exact centre of the garden was free. As we approached all eyes seemed to be upon us and I wondered whether I had forgotten to shave or committed some other faux-pas.

Just as I was going to sit down, I saw the Italian tenor Luigi Pavarotti sitting at our immediate left and with him was a breathlessly, beautiful young lady with long blonde hair and opaque ivory skin. All the men in the restaurant were of course looking at the lady and all the women were looking at Pavarotti. Pavarotti gave me a friendly smile and in a moment of euphoria, I raised my hands above my head and exclaimed “Maestro”. There was a murmur from the assembled diners and the lady looked at me endearingly, while Pavarotti, who is very large, bowed about 20 degrees, which was considerable and probably the maximum in the circumstances. Another murmur rippled across the garden and when I sat down, du Pontavice said “But you know Pavarotti?” In a flash I replied, “No, but he knows me.”

I have never again attained such heights of inspiration. Nevertheless,it allowed me to rise in the estimation of du Pontavice, whom I admired so much.


Prof. William Tetley QC, practised law with Fasken Martineau, DuMoulin from 1952 to 1970, was a minister and member of the Quebec National Assembly from 1970 to 1976 and since then has taught law at McGill University. He is counsel to Langlois Kronström Desjardins at Montreal and Quebec.

William Tetley QC,
Professor, McGill University
Email: william [dot] tetley [at] mcgill [dot] ca (William Tetley)
Web: http://www.mcgill.ca/maritimelaw/

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