ROME (AFP) - Operatic legend
Hailed by many as the greatest tenor of his generation, Pavarotti passed away during the night at his villa near the city of Modena after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
The mayor of Modena, Giorgio Pighi, said Pavarotti, who underwent surgery for cancer in July, 2006, had died shortly before 5:00am (0300 GMT).
Police established a security cordon in front of the villa to keep in line those who had already gathered to pay their respects.
Pavarotti -- known in his prime for the clarity of his voice and ability to hit high Cs with ease -- broke into the opera world when he won a competition in 1961.
He went on to perform acrossbefore crossing the Atlantic in February 1965 for a production of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in Miami, co-starring famed Australian soprano Joan Sutherland as Lucia.
It was with Sutherland in February 1972 that Pavarotti truly came of age, taking Covent Garden and theby storm with a sparkling production of a Donizetti favourite, "La Fille du Regiment".
"Luciano Pavarotti was one of the finest singers of our time," the Royal Opera House insaid in a statement.
"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," the statement said.
To the shock of some classical music purists, the larger than life singer extended his appeal far beyond the operatic world, collaborating with pop musicians like Sting and U2's Bono.
In 1991, a crowd of 150,000, including the Prince and Princess of Wales, braved the rain and cold in London's Hyde Park to hear him sing.
The previous year Pavarotti hit an even wider audience when his performance of the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" was chosen as the theme music for football's 1990 World Cup finals, hosted by his native Italy.
Among his best-known initiatives in recent years have been his appearances with two other leading singers, Jose Carreras and, known as the "Three Tenors", and the annual "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts in Modena.
Sutherland told BBC radio that there was "no question" that Pavarotti ranked among opera's greats, adding: "I'm very sorry to hear he's gone, God bless."
"It was incredible to stand next to it and sing along with it," the 80-year-old Australian star, nicknamed "La Stupenda", said.
"The quality of the sound was quite different -- you knew immediately it was Luciano singing."
She added that she had seen Pavarotti recently and he was "not the same person at all".
Pavarotti's success also attracted the attention of the society columns.
He left his wife Adua in 1996 after 35 years of marriage and three grown-up daughters for his secretary Nicoletta Mantovani, whom he married in 2003, and with whom he had one child.
Since his surgery in 2006, Pavarotti had at least five rounds of chemotherapy. He was hospitalised again on August 8 with a fever, and was discharged more than two weeks later after a battery of tests.
This summer, during a ceremony in honour of the singer on the island ofnear , Mantovani said Pavarotti had been feeling well and was preparing a new album.
The same day, July 10, Pavarotti called the ceremony's organisers and concluded by saying he was preparing another "Pavarotti and Friends" album.
Early Wednesday, Pavarotti had expressed his "emotion" following the establishment of a "cultural excellence" prize inthat he had been the first to receive.
He said he was "full of emotion and gratitude ... because it gives me the opportunity to continue to celebrate the magic of a life spent in service of art."
The death of Pavarotti is the second to rock the opera world in recent months. Acclaimed American soprano Beverly Sills died of cancer at herhome in July. She was 78.
In Modena, mayor Pighi said Pavarotti's funeral would probably be held Saturday.
"Pavarotti wanted to die at home. I saw him last week. He was very worn by the illness but he wanted to make conversation. We even spoke in the local dialect," Pighi said.
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