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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Obituary: Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti: Maestro for the masses
With a 300 pound frame and a personality as powerful as his vocal chords, Luciano Pavarotti had one of the world's finest voices, which he delighted in sharing with the masses.

Pavarotti's own life story compared with those of the most colourful operatic characters he brought to life. His great loves included food, football and family.

The son of a baker and a cigar factory worker, young Luciano was raised just outside Modena, the first boy born in the apartment block for 10 years, and thus treated like a young prince by a flock of adoring women.

His mother recognised the quality of young Luciano's singing voice and, in 1955, Pavarotti began his musical studies under the guidance of maestro Ettore Campogalliani. In 1961, he won the prestigious Achille Peri prize for singing.

International superstar

The same year saw his professional debut in Italy, as Rodolfo in a widely praised performance of La Boheme, and soon his soaring tones could be heard in opera houses across Europe.

Pavarotti enjoyed a fortuitous introduction to British audiences in 1963 when his idol Giuseppe Di Stefano fell ill, and Pavarotti replaced him at the London Palladium.

In Tosca with Ines Salazar
In Tosca with Ines Salazar
The performance was broadcast to 15 million viewers and the young star was signed by Decca, heralding a prodigious recording career.

His La Scala debut took place in 1965, the same year he went on tour with Australian soprano Joan Sutherland. Pavarotti remained forever grateful for what he learned from her about vocal technique and breathing.

He made his debut at his beloved Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1968, and was an international superstar within five years.

For more than 40 years, Luciano Pavarotti cut a most distinctive figure in the operatic world. His rare combination of power and quality marked him out from his peers.

Three tenors

His vast physique enabled his perfect pitch to reach the back of the opera house, but he was also capable of light, delicate phrasing.

At Covent Garden in 1966, playing Tonio in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, Pavarotti was tricked by his conductor and became the first tenor to hit all nine high C's of the first aria.

Pavarotti with Domingo and Carrerras
The Three Tenors: Pavarotti with Domingo and Carreras
In 1990, with his fellow tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, Pavarotti took opera out of the concert hall and into the stadium when he performed at the World Cup closing ceremony in Rome. He also made Puccini's Nessun Dorma forever his own.

Pavarotti joined Domingo and Carreras again under the Eiffel Tower as part of the 1998 World Cup celebrations. This concert was televised to an estimated two billion people, a world record.

In his later years, Pavarotti's fluctuating weight contributed to poor health. He began to eschew the hard graft and variety of opera, in favour of the easy money of mass concerts.

Criminal investigation

Increasingly poor performances and a bitter divorce robbed Pavarotti of his deity-like status in his native country.

Earning up to 100,000 for each stadium event, he had been forgiven for his rock-star indulgences.

But a career of off-stage dalliances culminated in the desertion of his wife after 35 years of marriage to live with a woman half his age. He later married Nicoletta Mantovani, and the couple had a daughter.

Luciano Pavarotti with Mariah Carey
Opera meets pop: Pavarotti with Mariah Carey
His first wife's divorce demands prompted a criminal investigation into the tenor's taxes and his Italian citizenship.

Pavarotti escaped conviction, but television cameras recorded his handing over a cheque for 3m to the Italian finance ministry as part of an ongoing settlement, and he was branded a traitor to Italy.

His former manager added his voice to the criticism. After 36 years at the tenor's side, Herbert Breslin parted company with Pavarotti and wrote in a book that he was tired of "being pushed around".

Charity works

Pavarotti's generosity was recognised by others, though. His annual Pavarotti and Friends charity concert brought performers from the Spice Girls to Bono to his hometown Modena, and he created a music centre for children in Bosnia.

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti: Larger than life
In 1981, he launched the Pavarotti International Voice Competition, in order that fresh talent could be heard.

In 2004, the tenor spent the best part of the year giving what he called a farewell celebration tour. It encompassed 40 concerts that took him from Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East and North and South America.

But his increasingly fragile health forced him to cancel many of these planned dates. In 2006, he was diagnosed with a malignant pancreatic tumour.

Although some opera "purists" did not regard him as one of the great tenors, Pavarotti did more than anyone to make opera accessible and fun, by sharing his huge voice and personality with huge audiences.

And his lifestyle was as flamboyant as the characters he played. Luciano Pavarotti was a true maestro for the masses.

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