Tributes pour in for 'colossus' Pavarotti

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The Independent Online

Figures from across the music world paid tribute today to opera star Luciano Pavarotti after he lost his battle with cancer.

The tenor, who is credited with bringing classical music to a mass audience, died at his home in Modena, Italy, aged 71.

In Britain he will forever be known for his performance of Puccini's Nessun Dorma, the anthem of the 1990 World Cup.

But to serious fans he was known for the unforced beauty and the thrilling urgency of his voice, his high Cs and ebullient showmanship which made him one of the world's most beloved tenors.

Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and underwent further treatment in August.

Today friends and colleagues spoke of his "God-given" talent as well as his "wonderful sense of humour".

His manager Terri Robson said in a statement that he died at 5am local time (4am BST).

"The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life," she said.

"In fitting with the approach that characterised his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness."

A proud Italian, Pavarotti had a long and happy relationship with Britain, once describing it as "one of the most important countries for me".

He formed an unlikely but close friendship with Diana, Princess of Wales, and was so upset at her death that he turned down an invitation to sing at her funeral.

One of Pavarotti's fondest memories was his Hyde Park concert in the summer of 1991.

The televised event in front of 150,000 people was the first classical concert in the park's history.

In 1990 he achieved pop star status with Nessun Dorma, an aria from Puccini's opera Turandot, which became the theme song for the World Cup held in Italy.

It was followed by the phenomenally successful series of Three Tenors concerts with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

Domingo led tributes to the star.

He said: "I always admired the God-given glory of his voice - that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range.

"I also loved his wonderful sense of humour and on several occasions of our concerts with Jose Carreras - the so-called Three Tenors concerts - we had trouble remembering that we were giving a concert before a paying audience, because we had so much fun between ourselves."

British tenor Russell Watson told GMTV that Pavarotti was "without question" the man who brought opera to the people.

He said: "The World Cup was the Three Tenors with Pavarotti at the helm, with a very entertaining version of Nessun Dorma, in fact, it's now called 'Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma'.

"His voice was so distinctive, you only needed to listen to a couple of bars and you knew it was him. He had incredible power and control."

Opera singer Lesley Garrett said Pavarotti simply had the "most beautiful voice in the world".

"He was an absolute giant as an opera singer and as a human being.

"Absolutely everybody knew his sound. That is what every singer dreams of, that you will be known for the uniqueness of your sound.

"It was a pure, clear, beautiful sound and we will simply never hear the like of it again. He could thrill you with his power and move you with his tenderness.

"His generosity of spirit, which matched his generosity of tone, is what I will remember most about him. He was the biggest and the best."

Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel said Pavarotti was "a truly inspirational and awe-inspiring artist with a voice of pure gold".

"His Premiership voice put us all into the Second Division," he said.

Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins said: "I'm very saddened by the loss of Pavarotti.

"His talent and voice were unique and can never be replaced. He'll be dearly missed by millions of people within and beyond the world of opera music."

As well as taking opera to the world's football terraces, he also took it to the top of the pop charts, when The Essential Pavarotti became the first classical album to reach number one in the UK pop charts.

Elton John, who sang the duet Live Like Horses with Pavarotti in 1996, said: "It's a sad day for music and a sad day for the world."

Pavarotti gave farewell performances at the Royal Opera House in January 2002 when he sang in Tosca, despite the death of his mother in the final stages of rehearsals.

In a statement, the Royal Opera House said: "The applause on those evenings was probably the most moving and heartfelt in the history of the Royal Opera."

It added: "He was one of those rare artists who affected the lives of people across the globe in all walks of life.

"Through his countless broadcasts, recordings and concerts he introduced the extraordinary power of opera to people who perhaps would never have encountered opera and classical singing. In doing so, he enriched their lives.

"He had a unique ability to touch people with the emotional and brilliant quality of his voice. He was a man with the common touch and the most extraordinary gift. He will be truly missed by millions."

Darren Henley, Classic FM managing director, described Pavarotti as "a musical colossus".

He said: "Not only was he loved and respected in the classical music world, but his fan base stretched far wider than most operatic performers.

"His death marks the end of an era and it's a sad day for classical music."

Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, who often sang with Pavarotti, said of the great tenor's voice: "It was incredible to stand next to it and sing along with it."

Gordon Brown's spokesman said the Prime Minister regarded Pavarotti as an outstanding opera singer.

"He inspired many people to turn to opera and enjoy opera and anybody who remembers the glorious summer of 1990 will remember his voice as the soundtrack of that summer."

In a heartfelt tribute to his friend, U2 singer Bono said Pavarotti was "a great volcano of a man who sang fire but spilled over with a love of life in all its complexity".

In a statement on the band's website, Bono said: "No one could inhabit those acrobatic melodies and words like him. He lived the songs, his opera was a great mash of joy and sadness; surreal and earthy at the same time.

"Even when the voice was dimmed in power, his interpretative skills left him a giant among a few tall men."

The Prime Minister added later that the death of the opera singer was a "terrible loss".

He said: "He has been heard by millions of people - it's a terrible loss and not just to the music community.

"He was a great character and well loved throughout the world."