Opera legend Luciano Pavarotti has passed away at his home at 5 a.m. this morning, his manager has stated, after yesterday’s reports of his health deteriorating to a “very serious” condition. He was 71.
The Italian tenor’s health took a turn for the worse following his recent hospital stay to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer. A local TV news station in Modena reported yesterday Pavarotti was on his death bed after suffering kidney failure. Friends and family of the singer held a bedside vigil at his home in Modena, located in northern Italy.
Pavarotti underwent surgery for cancer last year and had at least five rounds of chemotherapy.
For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti’s voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and ’70s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his charismatic performances of standards like “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” came to represent what opera is all about.
In fact, “Nessun Dorma” was Pavarotti’s last performance, sung at at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in February 2006. His last full-scale concert was at Taipei in December 2005, and his farewell to opera was in Puccini’s “Tosca” at New York’s Metropolitan in March 2004.
It was the second monumental loss in the opera world in recent months. American soprano Beverly Sills, whose widespread popularity mirrored Pavarotti’s, died July 2 at her home in New York. She was 78 and suffered from cancer.
Instantly recognizable from his charcoal black beard and tuxedo-busting girth, Pavarotti radiated an intangible magic that helped him win hearts in a way Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras — his partners in the “Three Tenors” concerts — never quite could.
“I always admired the God-given glory of his voice — that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range,” Domingo said in a statement from Los Angeles.
“I also loved his wonderful sense of humor and on several occasions of our concerts with Jose Carreras — the so-called Three Tenors concerts — we had trouble remembering that we were giving a concert before a paying audience, because we had so much fun between ourselves,” he said.
Pavarotti, who seemed equally at ease singing with soprano Joan Sutherland as with the Spice Girls, scoffed at accusations that he was sacrificing his art in favor of commercialism.
“The word commercial is exactly what we want,” he said, after appearing in the widely publicized “Three Tenors” concerts. “We’ve reached 1.5 billion people with opera. If you want to use the word commercial, or something more derogatory, we don’t care. Use whatever you want.”
The son of a baker, who was an amateur singer from Modena, touched our hearts with his voice and has now left an empty space in this world. Farewell, eternal opera champion.