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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Pavarotti hints at retirement
Pavarotti was appearing in Tosca
Tenor Luciano Pavarotti has indicated he may decide to retire from singing following his withdrawal from a concert in New York.

He was due to sing at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera on Sunday night but cancelled at the last minute saying he was suffering from flu.

He told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera he may be forced to make the decision to retire soon.

"It's the most difficult decision because I don't know yet if the moment has come or if the crisis of the past few days is down to health problems," he said.

"The media seems to imply that the New York opera public will not forgive my cancellation

Luciano Pavarotti
The late cancellation of his performance in Tosca has provoked angry responses from sections of the New York press.

The New York Post headlined its front page story "Fat man won't sing".

But Pavarotti is adamant he was not well enough to perform, writing an open letter to fans unapologetically explaining his voice was not strong enough to perform.

Standing ovation

"The media seems to imply that the New York opera public will not forgive my cancellation. But forgiveness assumes that one has made a mistake; no matter how much I regret with a passion not being able to sing at the Met on this occasion, catching the flu was certainly not a wilful mistake I made," he said.

Pavarotti's role was taken by Italian Salvatore Licitra, who was rewarded with his last minute inclusion with a standing ovation.

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 the 66-year-old is on the verge of retiring from major opera performances after more than 40 years.

Future dates

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."

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
14 Jul 01 | Music
Pavarotti wows Hyde Park
02 May 01 | Arts
King of the high Cs
20 Jan 02 | Entertainment
Pavarotti could signal swansong
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