Is it worth £267 to hear this man?

The singer lives up to the hype, writes Mark Pappenheim
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The Independent Online
Whichever way you look at it, Luciano Pavarotti - for whose performance the Royal Opera House is to charge £267 for top- price seats - must be accounted one of the greatest tenors of our age. His waist measurements alone ensure that.

Even before "Nessun Dorma" introduced him to a new and ever-wider field of fans, Big Lucy's combination of vocal and physical stature had long since turned him into a household name to rival those of Caruso, Gigli or Jussi Bjorling.

Larger than life, with a voice to match, Pavarotti is a walking icon, complete with the operatic equivalent of the comic's catchphrase - the dainty white hanky that offsets his enormous girth (and appalling taste in scarves) But beyond the hype, and the "any note you can reach, I can hold longer" antics of the Three Tenors roadshows, Lucky Luciano is also a true artist - the length of his career attests to that.

He made his debut in 1961 and, with his 60th birthday approaching in October, is still going strong at an age when Caruso had already been dead for 12 years. So, the question must be, how much longer can he go on?

His increasing age, and the continuing shortage of obvious successors, lends his every appearance an added scarcity value. Pavarotti is now a collector's item - and London's opera-goers have had few enough opportunities to collect.

The last time that Pavarotti sang at Covent Garden was in September 1992, in Puccini's Tosca. Edward Seckerson wrote on these pages at the time: "He came, he stood, he delivered. And yes, there were moments where an involuntary shiver down the spine served to remind one that here, unquestionably, was one of the great voices of our time . . . "

Not as heavyweight as Domingo still is, not as honeyed as Carreras once was, Pavarotti is nevertheless the genuine Italian article, with a clarion timbre, an open-throated approach and a winning way with words that can make the voice itself as dramatic avehicle as any more mobile performer can boast. With Pavarotti, you certainly get what you pay for.