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Swiss opera world pays tribute to Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti as he will be remembered by millions Keystone

Switzerland’s opera scene has been paying tribute to legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, whose death was announced on Thursday.

Pavarotti, who was 71 years old, was suffering from pancreatic cancer. He died in his home town of Modena in northern Italy.

“The Maestro had fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer that eventually took his life,” said the singer’s manager, Terri Robson.

Pavarotti was – literally – a larger-than-life character who is credited with bringing opera to the masses, particularly through his performances with fellow tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras.

Grisha Asagaroff, artistic director of the Zurich Opera House, said that Pavarotti was the most popular singer since Enrico Caruso, who died in 1921.

“Even if people didn’t really know about singers, they all knew about Pavarotti,” he said. “Every taxi driver in every country knew him.”

Opera giant

For Alain Perroux, a music expert in Geneva who has written widely on opera, Pavarotti was the antithesis of today’s slim and beautiful singers.

“He was the very incarnation of the [opera] giant – physically imposing, not a very good actor, who was able to transmit the nuances of opera with his heavenly voice, which had an incredibly seductive power,” Perroux told swissinfo.

“He gave the impression that singing was so easy for him. It was a very natural voice.”

Perroux also pointed Pavarotti’s other side – his colourful personal life, which took up many newspaper inches, as well as his tendency in his later years to go for more commercial projects.

In 2003 Pavarotti married Nicoletta Mantovani, an assistant 34 years his junior, after an acrimonious divorce form Adua, his wife of 37 years. His second marriage produced a daughter, Alice, who is four years old. He has three daughters from his first marriage.

Amazing voice

Aviel Kahn, a former director of Bern’s Opera House and general manager designate of Flanders Opera, said the opera world would remember Pavarotti’s amazing voice.

“Singers who worked with him described him as a bon viveur, somebody who was the same on stage as he was in private,” Kahn told swissinfo.

Pavarotti had worked in Zurich’s Opera House as a young tenor before he was well known.

But he only appeared twice in Switzerland after that, at a concert at the city’s Hallenstadion stadium and for an evening of German Lieder at the Opera House. A 2006 concert in the stadium was cancelled due to Pavarotti’s ill health.

Pavarotti enjoyed a 40-year career after shooting to stardom after a stand-in appearance at London’s Covent Garden opera house in 1963.

His fame gained an extra gleam when he, Domingo and Carreras – the three tenors – sang in Rome during the 1990 football world cup in Italy. One of the arias “Nessun Dorma” became a signature tune of the singer.

“Nessun Dorma” was also part of Pavarotti’s final performance, at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.


Pavarotti was born on October 12, 1935 in Modena, Italy.

He made his opera debut in 1961 and shot to stardom following a stand-in appearance in London in 1963.

In 1972 he famously hit nine high Cs in a row during a performance of “Daughter of the Regiment” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

In the 1990s, Pavarotti’s teaming with Domingo and Carreras became a music business phenomenon.

People immediately recognized Pavarotti’s smile and lumbering bulk, as he sang arias and Neapolitan folk songs, pop numbers and Christmas carols for hundreds of thousands in outdoor concerts.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006 and he underwent surgery. He had not made any public appearances since then, but continued to teach singing.

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