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Pavarotti e morta

September 6, 2007 — Arriverderci, Luciano.

Opera legend Luciano Pavarotti, regarded as the greatest tenor of our time, died early today at his home in Italy following a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

Pavarotti’s manager, Terri Robson, said that the singer died at his villa in Modena, Italy, at 5 a.m. local time.

“The maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life,” Robson said. “In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness.”

Instantly recognizable by his black beard, tuxedo-busting girth and trademark white handkerchief in his right hand, Pavarotti won the admiration of opera buffs and pop fans alike. His was a wide-ranging celebrity that even Placido Domingo and José Carreras – his partners in the “Three Tenors” concerts – have not achieved.

For opera fans, the beauty of Pavarotti’s voice made him the ideal interpreter of Italian arias, Neapolitan songs and Christmas classics.

Pavarotti, who was as much at ease singing with sopranos as he was with James Brown, scoffed at accusations that he was sacrificing his art in favor of commercialism when in July 1990, he helped launch the “Three Tenors” concert in connection with soccer’s World Cup held in Italy that summer.

His life would go on to resemble an opera-like tragedy when, in 1996, 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, whom he wed in 2003.

Following cancer surgery in New York in July 2006, Pavarotti retreated to his birthplace of Modena. Taken to a hospital there with a fever last month, Pavarotti was released on Aug. 25 after undergoing more than two weeks of treatment.

The son of a baker who was an amateur opera singer, Pavarotti was born on Oct. 12, 1935, in Modena.

Like most Italian boys, he had dreams of being a soccer player. When that failed, Pavarotti’s parents urged him to find a job. For a short time, he worked as an insurance salesman and teacher.

After taking on singing as a hobby, Pavarotti caught his big break thanks to another Italian opera great, Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a London performance of “La Boheme” in 1963.

Pavarotti served as a stand-in – and a star, the likes not seen since Enrico Caruso, was born.

Pavarotti was known as the “King of the High C’s” for the ease in which he tossed off difficult notes. In fact, it was his ability to hit nine glorious high C’s in quick succession that first turned him into an international superstar singing the aria “Ah! Mes amis,” in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972.

During his later years, Pavarotti, who kept an apartment on the Upper West Side, would refer to The Met as “my home.”

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