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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 23:06 GMT
Pavarotti sings in memory of mother
Pavarotti's mother would have wanted him to perform
Tenor Luciano Pavarotti returned to London's Royal Opera House on Friday despite the death of his mother in Italy on Thursday.

He had been in rehearsals for his first performance at Covent Garden in four years when he heard his much-loved mother Adele, 86, had died.

Pavarotti immediately returned to Modena in northern Italy to be with his father, Fernando, his sister and his daughters.

But Adele was, says her 66-year-old son, one of the greatest influences in his career as an opera singer - and she would have wanted the show to go on.

Mother's memory

A spokeswoman said the family had urged him to go ahead with his four-night turn as Mario Cavaradossi in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca.

He would dedicate the performance to his mother's memory, she added.

"Adele would constantly listen to the radio and with my father Fernando constantly talk with friends about the great tenors of the day," Pavarotti told BBC News Online, recalling his childhood in Modena.

Pavarotti is appearing in Tosca

"My parents were the most important things in my life for singing. As well as being the greatest of human beings, they both filled me with the enthusiasm that grew into a passion - for music and the voice."

Pavarotti's father, now 90, divided his time between working as a baker and singing as a tenor in the Corale Rossi in Modena. His mother earned a living in a tobacco factory.

Despite their son's clear enthusiasm and talent for singing, they made him train as a primary school teacher and later an insurance salesman.

"I was a very good salesman, I also loved teaching," insists Pavarotti. "However, I always, from as young as I can remember, wanted to be a tenor.

"The day I realised I could devote myself to becoming a tenor and earn a living from it was one of the happiest in my life."


Pavarotti gave his first public performance with the Corale Rossi. It was following one memorable trip to Wales that he knew there was only one career for him.

"The choir won a prestigious singing competition and the feeling was wonderful for all of us. The choirmaster even fainted when the result was announced," he explains.

Singing at Covent Garden is one of the most special experiences for me - it is an important and big part of my life

Luciano Pavarotti

"It was then that I really knew that a life in singing would be the most wonderful, beautiful, rewarding thing possible."

Despite celebrating his 40th anniversary as a professional tenor and international star, Pavarotti says the thrill of performing Tosca never goes away.

"Tosca is a wonderful opera for the tenor. But Cavaradossi is a role I took on fairly late in my career," he says.

"I was due to sing Tosca in 1963 but the tenor Giuseppe di Stefano told me I was mad because my voice was not ready. I listened to the maestro's advice and didn't sing it until over a decade later."


Adding to the thrill of the experience this time is being back at the Royal Opera House - which has changed dramatically since Pavarotti was last there.

But, he says, it is still the place he knows and loves: "Singing at Covent Garden is one of the most special experiences for me - it is an important and big part of my life."

Pavarotti: "Tosca is a wonderful opera for the tenor"

"The most important thing is that the stage and the sound and very beautiful theatre itself have not changed. The people who work here are still the most professional and enthusiastic too."

Pavarotti believes he owes his global success to the UK and the Royal Opera House in particular.

He made his international debut there as a 28-year-old tenor filling in for a sick di Stefano to sing Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme and had his first spot on popular TV on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

Sadly, his much-awaited return is thought likely to be one of his last in the classic tenor role as recently he has experienced a diminution of the voice.

"I will know when my voice is ready to retire and will not go on beyond that time," he has said.

"As far as the last appearance at Covent Garden goes, I really can't say. I'm just going to enjoy singing Cavaradossi."

Pavarotti will give three more performances of Tosca at the Royal Opera House on 15, 18 and 21 January.

The BBC's Caroline Thomsett
"For the rest of the cast, Pavarotti's professionalism at a time of family tragedy was little surprise"
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