Pavarotti flies in to ring down Opera House curtain

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The Independent Online
Luciano Pavarotti, the great Italian tenor, flew into Britain yesterday for his last appearance at the Royal Opera House before it closes for redevelopment.

The opera star and his young girlfriend, Nicoletta Mantovani, are paying a flying visit for tomorrow's sell-out performance at Covent Garden, which will be his only solo recital in London this season.

The event will be his first recital at the Royal Opera House in eight years. His last appearance on stage was in Verdi's opera Un Ballo In Maschera in 1995.

A Covent Garden spokeswoman said: "It is completely sold out and has been virtually since we opened [booking]. It is a rare treat."

The world's most famous tenor will perform a programme which includes music by Beethoven, Scarlatti, Schubert and Bizet. There will be operatic arias from Puccini's Tosca and Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore - but no airing of what has become his signature tune, Nessun Dorma.

He performed the same programme at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in January.

The recital is part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the opera house after the Second World War and comes two months before it closes for the pounds 214m redevelopment plan.

The theatre is scheduled to reopen in December 1999, which may well make this Pavarotti's last Covent Garden performance of the century.

His debut there was as Rodolfo in La Boheme in 1964. For his first recital, in 1976, he was accompanied on the piano by Leone Magiera, as he will be again tomorrow.

Pavarotti arrived at the Hyde Park Hotel yesterday lunchtime with 27- year-old Miss Mantovani. She was the singer's secretary, but moved into his Italian home two years ago when he left his wife of 36 years.

She immediately put him on a strict diet to reduce his legendary bulk by several stones, and has been credited with huge influence over him, despite being younger than his three daughters.

Pavarotti had enjoyed previous dalliances, but his wife, Adua, had tolerated them. However, she wrote an angry open letter to an Italian newspaper through her lawyer, about the Mantovani affair. Louise Jury

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