High note

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The Independent Online

The opera isn't over until the fat man sings. Let's hope that Luciano Pavarotti goes on for ever, or at least a few seasons more.

Of course, he's holding us on tenterhooks. When his name didn't appear on next season's schedules at the New York Met for the first time in years, doubts were raised – doubts hardly put at rest by his spokesman's hints that he would be seeing how his two appearances at the Met in Tosca this May went first.

But that is only right and proper. A great artist does not leave the stage until he sees an empty theatre. As long as the customers are there, shouting for encores, what does it matter that he can't reach the high notes, that he's done the part a thousand times before, that he finds it difficult to get across the stage without a stick?

The thing that matters is the performance in the most rounded (in all aspects) sense of the word. Pavarotti may no longer be a talent. But he is a star, a presence on the stage. Ellen Terry went on doing Juliet into her seventies. If Pavarotti wants, and still has some notes, let him do the same. But, please, on the opera stage, not a sad tailing off in the concert hall.

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