The Pavarottis decide to go solo

Maybe it was the elixir of love or just the force of destiny, but Luciano Pavarotti and his wife, Adua, announced that they were separating yesterday after a 36-year marriage. Weakened by infidelities, the marriage was finally broken by a scandalous affair between Luciano and his 26-year- old secretary.

Pavarotti, 60, has barely been on speaking terms with his wife for months because of his attachment to his by now inseparable companion, Nicoletta Mantovani. At first he attempted to deny the affair, but could hide it no longer when an Italian gossip magazine published a photograph of the couple kissing on the beach in Barbados last month.

"Nicoletta is a girl like all the others I have had. She's part of the stable. She is the favourite in my harem," the fabled tenor explained at the time.

The affair quickly exploded into a gossip-column sensation as 59-year- old Adua, Pavarotti's business manager as well as the mother of his three children, publicly appealed for him to come back to her.

Showing considerable steel, she said he was making a big mistake and would end up unloved and alone. She also removed his name from the doorbell at their villa outside Modena, Pavarotti's home town in northern Italy.

A brief statement yesterday said the couple had separated by mutual consent "out of respect for each other and family". Under Italian law, couples become eligible for a divorce after three years of formal separation.

The divorce will be a financial blow for Pavarotti as his operatic career winds down and he relies increasingly on crowd- pleasing acts to bring in the high fees he is used to.

There will be no tugs-of-war over the division of property, however, as the couple have kept their assets separate for several years. Together they own the villa in Modena, a house in Bologna and homes in Manhattan, Monte Carlo and on the Adriatic coast.