Venice blaze fires tenors with the love of applause

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The Independent Online
ANDREW GUMBEL

Rome

The smoke has barely cleared from the ruins of La Fenice, the Venice opera house which burned down this week, and already the world's most famous tenors are competing for the right to become the "saviour" whose charity efforts will rebuild the theatre in double-quick time.

Luciano Pavarotti did not waste a moment in putting his name forward, announcing to the world's media while the flames were still raging on Monday night that he would stage a concert in St Mark's basilica - singing alone, as he took great pains to emphasise.

His great rival, Placido Domingo, was not to be outdone so easily, however.

Yesterday he announced from Buenos Aires that he would take the lead role in a production of Verdi's Otello, which is partly set in Venice, right outside the basilica in St Mark's Square.

Again, he showed no interest in teaming up with any other big names. "If every artist sings on his own, he can raise more money that way," he said.

Both announcements seemed suspiciously hasty, since it was clear the two tenors had not had the time to consult or seek permission for their respective plans.

Instead, one detected a distinct whiff of the deep rivalry that has riven the two men since they shot to popular international fame as the voices behind the World Cup in Italy five-and-a-half years ago.

Together with Jose Carreras, Pavarotti and Domingo made up the "Three Tenors", whose concerts before the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals were huge successes and sold millions of records. Since then, Pavarotti in particular has tapped the popular market, linking up with the likes of U2 and Sting. On Monday night he was in Turin in preparation for a centenary performance of Puccini's La Boheme.

The truth is, though, that both Pavarotti and Domingo are reaching the end of their operatic careers. The operatic world has a time-honoured tradition of cashing in on the commercial market before slipping into retirement. They may indeed be genuinely sorry about the destruction of La Fenice, but it also presents them with the perfect opportunity for publicity.

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