Pavarotti's widow hits back at claims she was left in debt

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The Independent Online

Luciano Pavarotti's widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, has launched a vehement attack on the Italian media in which she denies "unspeakable" reports that she had been left in debt after his death and was in dispute with the legendary tenor's three adult daughters over the content of his will.

In her first interview since the death of the opera singer, Ms Mantovani, 37, said she had decided to go public in an interview for the sake of her four-year-old daughter, Alice, and to defend the memory of Pavarotti.

She said she wanted to dispel what she called a malicious campaign of gossip since his death, including allegations that she was depriving her step-daughters of part of their rightful inheritance.

Pavarotti left half of his estate to Ms Mantovani, his former secretary, and half to his four daughters.

The Italian media reported that Ms Mantovani was left with the equivalent of £12.6m in debts and that her marriage to the popular singer was close to collapsing when he died.

Referring to the claims of the daughters of Pavarotti's first wife to the estate and to Pavarotti's American testament, including a house in New York, she said: "They paint me as someone who plundered Luciano. These are not nice things for a daughter to read. They said that Luciano was gaga. Instead he was a positive person who concerned himself with everything, also from a material point of view, which is why he surely has left so much for everyone.

"I believe that, in the trust, Luciano wanted to indicate that the house in New York was destined for me not for its value but as a home, in the sense that it was always our apartment, where we lived the most beautiful moments.

"But its value will be discounted from the inheritance, so nothing will be taken away from the others ... there is no problem with the daughters. One does not even have to say that we will reach an agreement, there is already an agreement."

Pavarotti, she said, "wanted us all to be in agreement and we want to respect that".

She reiterated that "there is no falling out with the daughters, it is unspeakable that the press and television try to damage this relationship".

In the interview it was suggested to her that it was inevitable a relationship with an idol such as Pavarotti should excite jealousy. "In the life of a great tenor, one always attributes to the wife, to the woman of a musical myth somehow the blame for the collapse of the singer, a malicious role. Do you agree with this?"

She did agree and said: "It always was like that, from the start of our story, there is nothing you can do. I can't spend all my time justifying myself. Luciano and I were together, we had a beautiful life, a stupendous daughter."

The singer's widow said he had taught her to relax in the company of prime ministers and presidents they met during their tours but had not prepared her for the media onslaught she faced after his death from cancer.

She said: "He would never have imagined anything like that. I hope that the controversies are abandoned. As far as I am concerned, I definitely will not go on television again. I believe I have said everything."

In the interview, Ms Mantovani also confirmed that she had multiple sclerosis and had kept the condition private for more than 13 years.

She said: "I discovered that I was ill with multiple sclerosis about six months after I got together with Luciano. It was fundamental for me that Luciano accepted me as I was: the illness as part of me, as part of my character."