Naked aria too loud for Italians

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The Independent Online
Alessandro Bernardi, an Italian dishwasher turned cabaret singer, was all set for his big international debut. He was to perform the rousing "Fratelli d'Italia" before a packed Wembley Stadium and 50 million television viewers worldwide before tonight's England-Italy World Cup match - until his past caught up with him.

The singer's cabaret act includes a naked rendition of the opera classic "Nessun Dorma", which became the theme tune of the last World Cup when sung by the fully clothed Luciano Pavarotti. Signor Bernardi's stage act also includes opera and punk songs set to flamenco music.

Yesterday it was announced that Italy's ambassador to England, Dr Paolo Galli, who had initially suggested the singer perform at the pre-match ceremony, had dropped him, saying his routine made him "inappropriate" for the occasion and that a replacement was hurriedly being sought.

The Football Association said the Italian ambassador had written expressing his concern over the Venetian-born Bernardi, who now lives in south London. "It was the Italian embassy who first suggested him and it is their decision that he should now not appear," said a spokesman.

"They felt his cabaret work made him inappropriate for the task."

Signor Bernardi was said to be devastated, especially because appearing nude on a chilly English winter night could not have been further from his mind - he was planning to sing his piece dressed in his brother-in-law's wedding suit.