MODENA, Italy (Reuters) - Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti, hailed by many as the greatest tenor of his generation, was in a serious condition on Wednesday after a battle with cancer, media reported.
The 71-year-old rotund, black-bearded singer, who helped bring opera to the masses and performed to vast stadium audiences round the world, had briefly lost consciousness, the ANSA news agency said.
A TV station in Pavarotti’s home city of Modena said he was unconscious and suffering from kidney failure, and that family and friends had gathered at his villa to be near the singer, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in July 2006.
“(Pavarotti) it has been learned is at home in very serious condition,” said the AGI news agency.
Medical authorities in the northern city declined to comment on his condition but one of Pavarotti’s friends, contacted by Reuters, said she had also heard he was in a serious condition.
Neither his family nor manager could be reached for comment about Pavarotti, who shot to fame with a stand-in appearance at London’s Covent Garden in 1963 and soon had critics gushing about his voluminous voice.
Perhaps his biggest gift to the music world was when he teamed up with Spanish stars Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras at the 1990 soccer World Cup and introduced operatic classics to an estimated 800 million television viewers round the globe.
Sales of opera albums shot up after the gala concert in Rome’s Baths of Caracalla and since then Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma” from his opera “Turandot” has been heavily associated with Pavarotti and soccer.
Like most Italian boys, Pavarotti used to dream of being a soccer star.
After the surgery in July last year in New York, he retreated to his Modena villa and had to cancel his first planned public reappearance a few months later.
Taken to hospital with a fever last month, Pavarotti was released on August 25 after undergoing more than two weeks of tests and treatment.
Earlier in his life Pavarotti’s parents wanted him to have a steady job and for a while he worked as an insurance salesman and teacher.
But he started singing on the operatic circuit and his big break came thanks to another Italian opera great, Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a London performance of “La Boheme” in 1963.
Covent Garden had lined up “this large young man” as a possible stand-in and a star was born.
In 1972 he famously hit nine high C notes in a row in “Daughter of the Regiment” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which he referred to as “my home”.
Thirty years later, Pavarotti was still one of the highest paid classical singers even though his public performances were fewer and further between.
Medical problems beset “Big Luciano” in the final years of his career, forcing him to cancel several dates of his marathon worldwide farewell tour.
Additional reporting by Mathias Wildt