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1991: Pavarotti sings in the British rain

VIDEO : Audiences brave the rain for Pavarotti park concert

Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has given a huge free concert in London's Hyde Park to celebrate 30 years in opera.

A crowd of 100,000 - out of an expected 250,000 - stood in the rain to watch Pavarotti perform 20 arias by Verdi, Puccini, Bizet and Wagner.

It was the biggest outdoor music event in Hyde Park since the Rolling Stones performed there in 1969.


"I discovered opera during the World Cup"

Terry Hall, Woolwich

VIPs - who paid up to 400 per ticket - included the Princess of Wales, Prime Minister John Major and Michael Caine. They got soaked in the downpour along with everyone else.

Crowd chants to lower umbrellas gave way to the great man's voice when he appeared on the specially made pink-canopied neo-classical stage at 1900 BST.

But by the end of the evening St John's Ambulance had treated 193 people for the effects of the cold.

Some fans - like Terry Hall, 22, from Woolwich - had camped overnight to get a prime spot in the 50 acre site.

"I discovered opera during the World Cup when one of Pavarotti's songs (Nessun Dorma) was used as the tune," he said.

A woman working on a merchandising stall insisted it was "really a very middle-class crowd".

But even though she sold 1,000 Pavarotti t-shirts - costing 10 each - organiser Oliver Goldsmith doubts he will recover much of the 900,000 he paid to stage the concert.

The Royal Parks Plant a Tree Appeal will receive 100,000 from the event.

Pavarotti contributed to the cause by planting a tree near the concert venue before a press conference today.

In Context
Shortly after the concert there was intense press speculation about Pavarotti's weight and fitness for professional singing.

Rumoured to weigh about 20 stone the singer - known as "Fat Lucy" - has always been keen to preserve his private life.

He subsequently had knee and hip replacement operations and lost 50 pounds.

Pavarotti appeared in court in Italy on charges of evading 13.3m of tax in September 2001.

He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted; the previous year he had agreed to repay about 8m in back taxes.

He announced his intention to retire from singing and began a farewell tour in 2005. But ill-health has wreaked havoc with his schedule - he's now being treated for pancreatic cancer and has postponed any future concerts until 2007.


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