Cancer claims beloved Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti at 71; hailed as king of the high Cs
ROME (AP) He was the son of a singing baker and became the king of the high Cs.Luciano Pavarotti, operas biggest superstar of the late 20th century, died Thursday. He was 71.Pavarotti, who had been diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer, died at his home in his native Modena at 5 a.m., his manager told The Associated Press in an e-mailed statement. His wife, Nicoletta, four daughters and sister were among those at his side, manager Terri Robson said.In fitting with the approach that characterised his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness, Robson said.Pavarottis charismatic persona and ebullient showmanship but most of all his creamy and powerful voice made him the most celebrated tenor since the great Enrico Caruso and one of the few opera singers to win crossover fame as a popular superstar.For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarottis voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory. For millions more, his thrilling performances of standards like Nessun Dorma from Puccinis Turandot came to represent what opera is all about.Nessun Dorma turned out to be Pavarottis last aria, sung at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006. His farewell to opera was in Puccinis Tosca at New Yorks Metropolitan in March 2004.Instantly recognizable from his charcoal black beard and tuxedo-busting girth, Pavarotti radiated an intangible magic that helped him win hearts in a way Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras his partners in the hugely popular Three Tenors concerts never quite could.I always admired the God-given glory of his voice that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range, Domingo said in a statement from Los Angeles. In Germany, Carreras told reporters he was one of the greatest tenors ever.We all hoped for a miracle … but unfortunately that was not possible, Carreras said.Pavarotti seemed equally at ease singing with soprano Joan Sutherland or the Spice Girls, but he scoffed at accusations that he was sacrificing his art in favor of commercialism.The word commercial is exactly what we want, he said after appearing in the Three Tenors concerts. Weve reached 1.5 billion people with opera.In the annals of that rare and coddled breed, the operatic tenor, it may well be said the 20th century began with Caruso and ended with Pavarotti. Other tenors Domingo included may have drawn more praise from critics for their artistic range and insights. But none could equal the combination of natural talent and personal charm that so endeared Pavarotti to audiences.In his heyday, he was known as the King of the High Cs for the ease with which he tossed off difficult top notes. In fact it was his ability to hit nine glorious high Cs in quick succession that turned him into an international superstar during a performance of Donizettis La Fille du Regiment at the Met in 1972.His name seemed to show up as much in gossip columns as serious music reviews, particularly after he split with Adua Veroni, his wife of 35 years and mother of their three daughters, and took up with his 26-year-old secretary, Nicoletta Mantovani, in 1996. They had a daughter, Alice, in early 2003 and married later that year.Pavarotti was born Oct. 12, 1935, the son of a baker who was an amateur singer. He had a meager upbringing, though he said it was rich with happiness.Our family had very little, but I couldnt imagine one could have any more, Pavarotti said.As a boy, Pavarotti showed more interest in soccer than his studies, but he also was fond of listening to his fathers recordings of tenor greats, particularly Giuseppe Di Stefano.In his teens, Pavarotti joined his father, also a tenor, in the church choir and local opera chorus. He trained to become a teacher, but at 20, he took part with the Modena chorus in an international music competition in Wales. When the group won first place, Pavarotti began to dedicate himself to singing.With the encouragement of his then-fiancee, Adua, he started lessons, selling insurance to pay for them. In 1961, Pavarotti won a local competition. He followed with a series of successes in small European opera houses before his 1963 debut at Covent Garden in London, where he stood in for Di Stefano as Rodolfo in Puccinis La Boheme.Having impressed conductor Richard Bonynge, Pavarotti was given a role opposite Bonynges wife, Sutherland, in a production of Lucia di Lammermoor and, then, in a tour. It was the recognition Pavarotti needed. He also credited Sutherland with teaching him how to breathe correctly.Debuts followed at La Scala in Milan in 1965, San Francisco in 1967 and New Yorks Metropolitan Opera House in 1968. Pavarotti, who had been trained as a lyric tenor, began taking on heavier dramatic roles.In the mid-1970s, Pavarotti became a true media star. He appeared in television commercials and began singing in hugely lucrative mega-concerts outdoors and in stadiums around the world. Soon came joint concerts with pop stars.In 1990, he appeared with Domingo and Carreras in Rome for soccers World Cup. The concert and The Three Tenors record were huge successes, and the three-tenor extravaganza became a mini-industry and widely imitated.Pavarotti liked to mingle with pop stars in charity concerts Pavarotti & Friends, held annually in Modena. He performed with artists as varied as Ricky Martin, James Brown and the Spice Girls.Despite his active charity work over the years, Pavarotti was dogged by accusations of tax evasion, and in 2000 he agreed to pay roughly $12 million to the Italian state.Pavarotti was preparing to leave New York in July 2006 to resume a farewell tour when doctors discovered cancer of the pancreas, one of the most dangerous forms of the disease. He underwent surgery.I was a fortunate and happy man, Pavarotti told Italian daily Corriere della Sera. After that, this blow arrived.The funeral will be held Saturday inside Modenas cathedral, Mayor Giorgio Pighi told SkyTG24.
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