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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Pavarotti joins Menotti celebration
Pavarotti congratulating 90-year-old Gian Carlo Menotti
Pavarotti congratulating 90-year-old Gian Carlo Menotti
Opera stars Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming celebrated the 90th birthday of Gian Carlo Menotti, one of the most successful composers of the 20th century, on Sunday.

The trio paid tribute to Menotti at a press conference - but Pavarotti was forced to pull out of a later gala concert after his mother was taken ill.

Domingo and Fleming still played to more than 2,000 people who packed the square in front of a 12th Century cathedral as part of a festival in Spoleto, Italy.

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti was forced to pull out of a gala concert
Italian-born Menotti is best-known for creating operas such as Amahl and the Night Visitors and double Pulitzer Prize-winning The Consul.

"Maestro, at 90 you have the skin of a baby," Pavarotti told the composer after hugging him.

"If I knew you were going to stay away from Spoleto for so long I wouldn't have let the Paris Opera steal you," he said.

Fleming, the New York Metropolitan Opera's star soprano, thanked Menotti for launching her international career at the Spoleto Festival.

Menotti founded the festival in 1958 to combine fresh and established artistic talent from around the world.

Highlight

Fleming performed what she described as one of her favourite arias, Steal Me Sweet Thief, from Menotti's opera The Old Maid and the Thief.

Another highlight of the festival included a performance of the composer's Pulitzer-winning The Saint of Bleecker Street, on Saturday.

This year's festival runs until 15 July.

Menotti emigrated to America in 1928 and found success on Broadway in the late 1940s and early 1950s with The Medium and The Consul.

He also founded an American version of the Spoleto Festival, which is based in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1977.

But he left in 1993 in a dispute over finances and the naming of a successor.

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