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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Pavarotti: The final notes
Luciano Pavarotti
His operatic appearances have become few in recent years
Luciano Pavarotti's recent announcement that he is to retire in 2005 - on his 70th birthday - comes after months of speculation about the health of the singer and the state of his voice.

In the last year the tenor has endured criticism of his singing, his acting and his temperament - as well as a long court case over alleged unpaid taxes.

In October 2001 a court in Modena, Pavarotti's home town, threw out charges that he had filed false tax returns.

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti's first love was football
But since then a number of last-minute cancellations, including an appearance in Tosca at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, have led to calls for the star to retire with dignity.

The autumn of an opera tenor's career is a difficult time, when a voice trained well beyond its natural capacity and starting to decline has to be nurtured through demanding arias - which the audience will often remember from the singer's prime.

Pavarotti was unable to hit a high C during a 1995 performance of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, and there were decidedly mixed reviews for last year's Ramades in Aida in New York.

'Poetic'

But his January appearance in Tosca at London's Royal Opera House brought superlatives once again.

Pavarotti, said High Canning in the Sunday Times, delivered "an object lesson in Puccini singing, the long melodic phrases delivered in a seamless legato, the words delivered with crystal clarity and poetic understanding, the climactic notes ringing out confidently".

Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, on 12 October, 1935, the first and only child of a baker.

The Three Tenors
The Three Tenors have been a showbusiness phenomenon
As a boy, he was more interested in football than music and earned his first local fame as a member of the town's soccer team.

He first sang in the town chorus with his father, an opera lover and gifted amateur tenor.

When the Rossini Male Chorus won first prize in an international competition, Pavarotti decided to pursue music full-time.

His debut came on 29 April, 1961, in one of the great tenor roles, Rodolfo in Puccini's La Bohème at the opera house in Reggio Emilia.

Partnership

After Italian success came engagements in Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich, and London.

His American debut came in February 1965, in a Miami production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland - the start of what would become a historic partnership.

Pavarotti
His 2002 Tosca was praised in London
It was in the United States in 1972 that Pavarotti produced one of his legendary performances, when in La Fille du Regiment at New York's Metropolitan Opera he sang nine effortless high Cs - causing the audience to erupt in a frenzied ovation.

He has long been associated with London/Decca Records and his recordings are consistently best sellers, covering a wide range of the opera repertoire as well as anthologies of Neapolitan and other Italian songs.

But Pavarotti's fame broadened dramatically when he took part in one of the most remarkable classical concerts of recent times during the 1990 World Cup - as one of the Three Tenors.

Hit

With José Carreras and Placido Domingo, Pavarotti was broadcast around the world singing a selection of famous arias and popular songs.

The broadcast was a major ratings hit and the subsequent record one of the biggest selling classical discs of all time.

The Three Tenors are to sing again for the World Cup in Japan on Thursday.

Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti also teaches young singers
His 1992 concert in London's Hyde Park, in the presence of Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, was the first classical concert in the history of the park and drew some 150,000 people.

In June 1993, more than 500,000 fans gathered to enjoy his performance in New York's Central Park and in September 1993 he sang in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris to a further 300,000 fans.

While there were many in the classical world who criticised the outdoor concerts as a stunt, his defenders said that doing a valuable job in popularising opera - and letting large numbers hear one of history's great voices.

There were also critical grumbles about his duets with pop stars like Sting, Bono and Bryan Adams.

But Pavarotti has also been dedicated to the development of young singers, conducting standing-room-only master classes at conservatories around the world.

Allegations

In 1982, he initiated a prestigious international vocal competition, culminating in final performances in Philadelphia.

He was also a celebrity patron of troubled charity War Child UK, but quit along with other celebrities after the co-founder and a charity consultant were accused of accepting an alleged bribe.

Pavarotti is likely to restrict himself to a modest programme of recitals and one-off concerts between now and his retirement.

But news that he has set his retirement date will do nothing to diminish public demand for one of the greatest voices ever heard.

See also:

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