Tenors hit Wembley at pounds 350 a ticket

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The Independent Online

Arts Correspondent

The three tenors were officially labelled pop stars yesterday, and appropriately enough announced a gig at Wembley Stadium with ticket prices up to pounds 350.

Luciano Pavarotti, equally appropriately for a pop star, celebrates his 60th birthday today.

He was joined at Wembley yesterday by Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to announce the first world tour by the three, which will take in Japan, Australia, America and Germany as well as playing Wembley on 6 July next year.

But before they spoke, Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, who is associated with the tour, said he and the promoter Harvey Goldsmith had concluded that the three tenors were now bigger than the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. "They are the stars of the day. Bigger than any of the pop stars of today. They have a universal appeal which is bigger than any pop star."

As are their prices. At Wembley next year they will range from pounds 35 to pounds 350. But opera audiences, as opposed to rock audiences, at least have their comfort taken into consideration. They may have stars in their eyes, but they will be spared the sun in their eyes. For the first time ever the stage at Wembley will be built in front of the Royal Box to eliminate the glare of the sun as it sets.

Yesterday the three tenors were pushed on to the defensive as journalists from around the world questioned the commercialism of the tour. "What is commercial?" asked Pavarotti, his normally excellent grasp of English failing him for once. An Austrian journalist helped him out: "It means lots of money involved, basically," she said.

Placido Domingo attempted to clear up the matter by saying: "I think the fact so many people are talking about this is that they haven't realised we are not forcing anybody to come to this event." Besides, added Carreras, it was an artistic challenge for them to sing with one another, not a commercial one.

Pavarotti, who had earlier refused to answer any questions about his allegedly tangled love life, was prepared to wax lyrical about the joys of turning 60. "To be 60 generally can be something very bad if you are there alone without an example in front of you. I always have the luck to have a father of 83 alive and singing every day like a bird.

"And to be an artist gives me the possibility to be innocent. I don't know about money. I don't know what is the price of things. That is going to keep me young and sometimes very crazy. I am looking to be 83 like my father. But I will not sing at that age, I promise you."

Carreras and Domingo glanced at him, slightly alarmed. Like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin they may well have been hoping for a comeback tour in 23 years' time.