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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Pavarotti duets with Chinese president
Luciano Pavarotti meeting Chinese president Jiang Zemin
Pavarotti and Zemin had lunch the day after the concert
Luciano Pavarotti performed an impromptu duet of O Sole Mio with Chinese president Jiang Zemin when the pair met for lunch - with the tenor saying the premier has what it takes to become a "big star" in opera.

Pavarotti met the president after performing in Beijing's Forbidden City with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo as part of the city's bid to win the 2008 Olympic Games.

"We began all suddenly to sing," the tenor said of his lunch meeting with Jiang.

"If this man can express himself with the soul and the willpower that he has, even in singing, he certainly will be a big star."
The concert drew a crowd of 30,000
The concert drew a crowd of 30,000

The Three Tenors performed the landmark concert before 30,000 people in the ancient Forbidden City on 23 June.

The concert took place in a vast open-air courtyard at the former imperial palace.

"He was very, very charming. He thanked all of us one by one," Pavarotti said.

"It was a very, very unique experience. And then we went to the table to eat. Fantastic food, first of all, really fantastic - the best Chinese I have tasted in my life."

He added: "We began suddenly to sing... the president made it with me... [we sang] O Sole Mio... I think it was very good."

Tight security

The superstar singer revealed it was not the first time he had sung in the Forbidden City.

"Fifteen years ago, we visited the Forbidden City," he told reporters in Hong Kong, where he is due to play a solo concert.

"And when I made the first step inside, I sang Vincero! Vincero! So I'd already sung in the Forbidden City, theoretically."

Pavarotti performing at the Forbidden City, Beijing
Pavarotti: Beijing is "an incredible city"
Pavarotti also explained his support for Beijing's Olympic bid, despite widespread condemnation of China's human rights record.

"We went there to make Beijing more visible to the people... I think Beijing should be chosen for the Olympics because it is an incredible city with a lot of present and a lot of future," he said.

He is also an ambassador of peace for the United Nations.

On the guest list at the $10m (7m) event were former South African President Nelson Mandela and Hong Kong film stars Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan.

Paramilitary police

The show took place amid tight security, with hundreds of police and members of the paramilitary Peoples Armed Police surrounding the area, closing off pavements and stopping and questioning some pedestrians.

The Associated Press reported at least one man being beaten and dragged away. Police also reportedly punched and arrested a news photographer.

But inside the palace, the concert got under way without incident with two giant dragons flanking the stage and the palace's temples and pavilions dramatically lit.

Beijing narrowly lost out to Sydney in a bid for the 2000 games and is hoping it to be named victor when the winning city for 2008 is announced next month.

See also:

23 Jun 01 | Music
Tenors hit high notes in China
21 Jun 01 | Music
Three Tenors spark price row
19 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Jiang Zemin: A new generation leader
02 May 01 | Arts
King of the high Cs
24 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
China impresses Olympics inspectors
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