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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 11:03 GMT
Pavarotti begins career farewell
Luciano Pavarotti
Pavarotti plans to become a teacher when he retires
Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti has edged closer to retirement with the first of three farewell performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

The 68-year-old performed in Puccini's Tosca and was greeted by thunderous applause when he graced the stage.

He will say goodbye to the Met on Saturday after 373 performances going back 36 years.

The tenor plans a series of farewell concerts around the world before finally bowing out in 2005.

The performance received a poor review from one newspaper, the New York Times.

"It was sad to hear him with such diminished energy on this occasion. It took so much concentration for Mr Pavarotti simply to make his voice work that he essentially left matters of rhythm and pacing to chance", said reviewer Antoni Tommasini.

"Vocally, once in a while there was a flash of that incomparable Pavarotti sound, a supply-shaped legato phrase, a honeyed pianissimo. He roused himself for a couple of ringing cries of "Vittoria! Vittoria!" in Act II," he continued.

Ovation

"But after sending the sustained high note into the balconies, his voice essentially gave out for the rest of Cavaradossi's outburst against the villainous Scarpia, the bass Samuel Ramey," added Tommasini.

Pavarotti upset fans last year when he cancelled his appearance at the Opera at the last minute after catching flu in dress rehearsals.

But after Saturday's final curtain, the tenor took his solo bows and extended his arms to the audience of nearly 4,000, most of whom gave him a standing ovation.

The singer had appeared in 373 performances in 20 roles at the Metropolitan since his debut in 1968.

The last two Toscas at the famous opera house are on Wednesday and Saturday.

Following his shows at the Met he will embark on a world tour as he reaches his 70th birthday in October 2005.

He then plans to teach music and spend more time with his wife Nicoletta and their young daughter.




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