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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Pavarotti cancels Met finale
Pavarotti
Pavarotti was appearing in Tosca
Tenor Luciano Pavarotti has failed to give his much-anticipated performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera season finale due to ill health.

Pavarotti, 66, announced at the last moment that he would not be appearing in Puccini's Tosca on Saturday night because of flu.

Members of the audience had paid between $75 and $1,875 for non-refundable tickets to see the show, which was also due to be screened live on a giant screen in the Lincoln Center plaza.

 Salvatore Licitra
Salvatore Licitra filled Pavarotti's place

The Met's general manager Joseph Volpe announced to the audience that Pavarotti had told him two hours before the curtain call that he would not be performing.

Mr Volpe added that he had told the Italian star: "This is a hell of a way to end this beautiful career of yours."

There have been rumours circulating for some months that Pavarotti is on the verge of retiring from major opera performances after more than 40 years.

Mr Volpe said Pavarotti had told him at 1715 on Saturday that he would perform but had called back two hours later to say he would not.

Mr Volpe said he had asked Pavarotti to appear even if he could not sing and was reportedly told: "I cannot do that."

Ovation

During Saturday afternoon a member of the Met's staff was sent to Pavarotti's apartment to help him prepare for the performance.

Pavarotti, 66, had also cancelled at the last moment his scheduled appearance in the same opera on Wednesday night because he was ill.

Pavarotti
Pavarotti: Scaling back performances

The Met flew in Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra as a back-up performer on Saturday.

He received a 43-second ovation at the conclusion of his first big aria and a 46-second ovation for his big third act aria.

At the end of the opera, the entire cast received a standing ovation from the packed house of 3,800 people.

Retirement

Licitra, 33, has been gaining a name as an opera star of the future but he was not due to make his Met debut until spring of 2004.

Pavarotti gave his first performance at the Met in 1968 in Puccini's La Boheme.

It has long been assumed that Saturday night's show was to be his last at the venue.

He has no future dates booked at the venue but remains scheduled for future arena concerts and recitals.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | Music
Pavarotti mourns his mother
20 Oct 01 | Europe
Pavarotti cleared of tax evasion
17 Sep 01 | Arts
Pavarotti denies tax evasion
14 Jul 01 | Music
Pavarotti wows Hyde Park
02 May 01 | Arts
King of the high Cs
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Pavarotti dreams of Madonna duet
20 Jan 02 | Entertainment
Pavarotti could signal swansong
14 Jan 02 | Showbiz
Pavarotti's farewell to mother
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