ROME -- Luciano Pavarotti, whose vibrant high C's and ebullient showmanship made him the most beloved and celebrated tenor since Caruso and one of the few opera singers to win crossover fame as a popular superstar, died Thursday. He was 71.
His manager, Terri Robson, told the AP in an e-mailed statement that Pavarotti died at his home in Modena, Italy, at 5 a.m. local time. Pavarotti had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and underwent further treatment in August.
"The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterised his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness," the statement said.
For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti's voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and '70s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his charismatic performances of standards like "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" came to represent what opera is all about.
In fact, "Nessun Dorma" was Pavarotti's last performance, sung at at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in February 2006. His last full-scale concert was in Taipei in, December 2005.
It was the second monumental loss in the opera world in recent months. American soprano Beverly Sills, whose widespread popularity mirrored Pavarotti's, died July 2 at her home in New York. She was 78 and suffered from cancer.
Instantly recognizable from his charcoal black beard and tuxedo-busting girth, Pavarotti radiated an intangible magic that helped him win hearts in a way Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras — his partners in the "Three Tenors" concerts — never quite could.
"I always admired the God-given glory of his voice — that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range," Domingo said in a statement from Los Angeles.
"I also loved his wonderful sense of humor and on several occasions of our concerts with Jose Carreras — the so-called Three Tenors concerts — we had trouble remembering that we were giving a concert before a paying audience, because we had so much fun between ourselves," he said.
Pavarotti, who seemed equally at ease singing with soprano Joan Sutherland as with the Spice Girls, scoffed at accusations that he was sacrificing his art in favor of commercialism.
"The word commercial is exactly what we want," he said, after appearing in the widely publicized "Three Tenors" concerts.