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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
'Maestro of Modena' returns home
By David Sillito
BBC News arts correspondent

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti, 71, died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer
There were two wives, a rock star and what seemed the entire population of Modena. The funeral of Luciano Pavarotti reflected his life, his music, and his celebrity status, but this was far more than just a farewell to a great singer.

The original plan was for a quiet family funeral. In the end it turned in to a state occasion.

Italy was not just saying goodbye to an opera star but a man who had become a symbol of the country.

This is a moment of great, great emotion for us
Pietro Adani
School friend

Before the casket was closed, the giant figure of Pavarotti looked much smaller in the coffin, a reflection perhaps of the months of illness, but the bold features of his face, beard and eyebrows were clear to see.

This face has become a global icon of Italy's national art form, opera, but it has also come to represent much of what Italians value in their country.

His warm personality, his love of pasta and his image as the poor son of a baker whose voice became his fortune was a potent mix and turned him in to an international brand.

Emotional conflict

The Italian newspapers are already discussing if there's anyone else who can represent Italy in such a positive way. Giorgio Armani? Sophia Loren? Valentino? None seem to capture quite what the maestro of Modena represented.

But there was more to this than just the death of a great man, like any good opera there was emotional conflict.

Nicoletta Mantovani
Nicoletta Mantovani was among the family members present

Sitting on opposite sides of the cathedral were his two wives - Adua Veroni who had stayed with him for more than 30 years and raised his three daughters and helped manage his career.

And facing her Nicoletta Mantovani, his secretary, 34 years his junior and mother to his twins, one of whom Riccardo died at birth.

Indeed it was clear that within the church there was some disquiet about having such a service for a man who had divorced and remarried. Musically there was also criticism of the maestro.

Beyond the grave

His courting of celebrity, his performances with pop stars and the gradual decline of his voice from its peak in the 1960s and 70s were all cause for some critics to wonder if his extraordinary fame outweighed his musical gift.

But the prime of this unique voice, his startling ability to hit a series of top Cs and the warmth and depth of his singing was enough to ensure most forgave him his shortcomings.

Pavarotti's coffin
Pavarotti's coffin was strewn with his favourite flowers

And then there came a moment straight from the world of opera. A ghost.

The two Pavarottis, Luciano and his father singing the Panis Angelicus together from beyond the grave.

The recording was a reminder that his father too had a fine voice and although poor he helped support his son as he tried to make it as a singer.

And after that the coffin was carried out into the square where the people of Modena had gathered. Among them were friends such as Pietro Adani who had gone to school with Luciano and at one point helped teach him to ski.

"This is a moment of great, great emotion for us," he said.

He described how as a student they would occasionally hear the young Luciano singing but his father tried to stop him, he wanted him to save his voice knowing it could be his fortune.

Fifty years later he is now laid next to his parents and his dead son in the family vault. The maestro of Modena has returned home for the final time.

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