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  • Arrivederci Maestro
    The world mourns the passing of opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2007 - There was a time when morning in my house meant listening to the refreshing sounds of Luciano Pavarotti's smooth tenor voice belting out pop classics with stars such as Ricky Martin and Jon Bon Jovi. The beautiful, unexpected blend on the “Pavarotti and Friends” CDs kept my parents singing and dancing through breakfast - and some of the proceeds went to charities. On this Sunday morning, however, the world is eerily silent. The great Pavarotti - who matched his singing talent with charm and vivaciousness - passed away September 6 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. Now, Heaven can boast having one of the world's great performers on its stage.

    Those of us still on Earth will have to take comfort in celebrating his life - and listening to his recordings. Pavarotti was buried after three days of mourning in his hometown of Modena, Italy. His death proved he was not without critics. Many had criticized the acclaimed opera singer in the past for teaming up with famous musicians to sing lowly pop music (even - or especially if - it made him loads of money). He was taken to task for taking up foreign residency to avoid Italy's hefty taxes. Pavarotti famously left his wife and was divorced, a no-no in Catholic Italy. Some people in Italy, in fact, did not want his funeral to take place in the Catholic church, where, as a boy, he sung in the choir, because of his divorce. They were few in numbers, however, so did not get much support.

    In the end, his friends and family and legions of fans went to his hometown church to bid farewell to Pavarotti - and all that controversy was pushed aside. People were far more interested in the man's talent and the good things he did for the poverty stricken and sick. The range of stars who showed up to say arrivederci was a testament to the broad range of appeal he had as an Italian opera singer. Everyone from Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, to Bono, a philanthropist and rock star, to Jovanotti, an Italian rap singer attended Pavarotti's funeral.

    Cross over talent Andrea Bocelli was among those who paid tribute to the tenor with song. And the crowd outside the church witnessed it all on big television screens - and they gave one last standing ovation to Pavarotti's work when it streamed through the streets. The reaction to his death was proof that his life had far greater meaning than his singing talent alone.

    Regardless of what you thought of Pavarotti, he brought opera - and Italy - to the world. He was the epitome of Italian - a lover of food, a charmer of women, a high priest of life. He made opera hip even with young Americans. He used his popularity to reach out on behalf of charities and do his part to make the world a better place. He mentored young talents, something many a star has had trouble doing.

    I'll always remember him for the “Three Tenors” series, which put Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras on stage together. The first time was in Los Angeles on the eve of the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil. Never a fan of opera, I watched because my parents wanted to see it and I was hungry for anything related to soccer. As Pavarotti sang, and I dreamed of Italy's potential World Cup victory, I got goose bumps. That's what good singers do to us average Joes and Josephines!

    British papers this week have been heralding Pavarotti's version of “Nessun Dorma”, one of his most famous hits, because the Brits used it as the theme to the 1990 World Cup. Forever linked with soccer, Pavarotti was a fan and friend of the sport. “Nessun Dorma” might be on the UK's top 10 downloaded songs this week as nostalgic fans head to the Internet. In a digital age like ours, people like Pavarotti will never die. We'll always have that voice on our iPods, in our stadiums, and in our hearts.

    For more information on all things Italian, visit www.francescadimeglio.com.

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