Luciano Pavarotti, whose vibrant high C's and ebullient showmanship made him one of the world's most beloved tenors, has died. He was 71.
His manager, Terri Robson, said in an e-mail statement that Pavarotti died at his home in Modena, Italy, at 5am yesterday. Pavarotti had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and underwent further treatment last month.
"The maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness," the statement said.
For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti's voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and 1970s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his charismatic performances of standards like Nessun dorma from Puccini's Turandot came to represent what opera is all about.
In fact, Nessun Dorma was Pavarotti's last performance, sung at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in February last year. His last full-scale concert was in Taipei in December 2005.
"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," Placido Domingo said in a statement from Los Angeles yesterday.
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 then took up with his 26-year-old secretary in 1996.
In late 2003, he married Nicoletta Mantovani in a lavish, star-studded ceremony.
The son of a baker who was an amateur singer, Pavarotti was born Oct. 12, 1935, in Modena. He had a meager upbringing, though he said it was rich with happiness.
"Our family had very little, but I couldn't 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 father's recordings of tenor greats.
"In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror," Pavarotti said.
In 1961, Pavarotti won a local voice competition and with it a debut as Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme.
He followed with a series of successes in small opera houses throughout Europe before his 1963 debut at Covent Garden in London.
In the following years, Pavarotti made a series of major debuts, appearing at La Scala in Milan in 1965, San Francisco in 1967 and New York's Metropolitan Opera House in 1968. Other early venues included Vienna, Paris and Chicago.
In the mid-1970s, Pavarotti became a true media star. He appeared in television commercials and began appearing in hugely lucrative mega-concerts outdoors and in stadiums around the world. Soon came joint concerts with pop stars. A concert in New York's Central Park in 1993 drew 500,000 fans.
Pavarotti's recording of Volare went platinum in 1988.
In 1990, he appeared with Domingo and Jose Carreras in a concert at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome for the end of soccer's World Cup. The concert was a huge success, and the record known as The Three Tenors was a best-seller and was nominated for two Grammy awards. The video sold over 750,000 copies.
During the 1992-95 Bosnia war, he collected humanitarian aid along with U2 lead singer Bono, and after the war he financed and established the Pavarotti Music Center in the southern city of Mostar to offer Bosnia's artists the opportunity to develop their skills.
Pavarotti was preparing to leave New York in July last year to resume a farewell tour when doctors discovered a malignant pancreatic mass, his manager Terri Robson said at the time. He underwent surgery in a New York hospital, and all his remaining concerts were canceled.
"I was a fortunate and happy man," Pavarotti told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published about a month after the surgery. "After that, this blow arrived. And now I am paying the penalty for this fortune and happiness."
Just this week, the Italian government honored him with an award for "excellence in Italian culture."
In his final statement, Pavarotti said the awards gave him "the opportunity to continue to celebrate the magic of a life dedicated to the arts and it fills me with pride and joy to have been able to promote my magnificent country abroad."
Pavarotti had three daughters with his first wife, Lorenza, Cristina and Giuliana; and one, Alice, with his second wife.
At his side when he died were his wife, Nicoletta; his four daughters; his sister, Gabriela; his nephews and close relatives and friends, Robson said.
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