The tenor Luciano Pavarotti has emerged from a year of bereavements to release his first album of pop songs.
Pavarotti, who is approaching retirement, set aside operatic arias to record lighter numbers written for him - including one with the guitar veteran Jeff Beck - after agreeing with his record label and one of his daughters to take a popular turn. The album, released yesterday, comes shortly before his 68th birthday and after a difficult period in which he lost his parents and a baby son, one of twins by his partner Nicoletta Mantovani, within a year.
Ti Adorowas launched with a video featuring Pavarotti twirling a top hat with troupes of dancing girls. The video was launched before his only solo UK concert appearance of the year, at the Royal Albert Hall in London tonight.Pavarotti admitted he resisted previous attempts to record popular music, even though he has regularly hosted a charitable concert in Italy with pop stars including James Brown, the Spice Girls and Stevie Wonder.
He agreed partly because tenors have always sung popular music. "I had to do this before stopping recording," he said.
Costa Pilavachi, president of Decca Records, said: "The video is the one he wanted. We would never have dared to propose a video like that, but he wanted to be Fred Astaire, a little over the top and flamboyant."
Pavarotti's farewell tour will commence after his final opera, Tosca, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York next spring. Plans are also under way for farewell concerts in the UK before he takes his final bow on 12 October 2005, his 70th birthday.
Yesterday he spoke of the death of his parents and his baby son. But he spoke with a giant smile about his daughter, Alice, who at nine months is younger than his granddaughter by one of his three grown-up daughters.
"A daughter is something very special. It is a beautiful feeling that life goes on. She has made my life full," he said.
Of the death of Alice's twin in January, he said: "I could have lost both babies and Nicoletta, because it was very dangerous for Nicoletta, so I have to be happy about that."
Pavarotti said he intended to teach after he retired - and that he would do so for free.He also paid tribute to the part Britain had played in his career, where he was given his break in 1963 after a singer fell ill at the Opera House. "I learnt... how it is to be a professional singer. London is the mother of all my success."
Despite criticism that his voice is past its best, he said it was the audience's reaction that counted. "It's important if the audience is happy and they were at the last concert [with the Three Tenors in Bath]. They were very happy."