Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has died at his home in the northern city of Modena, his manager has announced.
The singer, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, was 71.
Luciano Pavarotti was born on the outskirts of Modena in north-central Italy on October 12, 1935, the son of Adele (Venturi), a cigar factory worker, and Fernando Pavarotti, a baker and singer. Although he spoke fondly of his childhood, the family had little money; its four members were crowded into a two-room apartment. According to Pavarotti, his father had a fine tenor voice but rejected the possibility of a singing career because of nervousness. World War II forced the family out of the city in 1943. For the following year they rented a single room from a farmer in the neighboring countryside, where young Pavarotti developed an interest in farming.
Pavarotti's earliest musical influences were his father's recordings, most of them featuring the popular tenors of the day — Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Tito Schipa and Enrico Caruso. At around the age of nine he began singing with his father in a small local church choir. Also in his youth he had a few voice lessons with a Professor Dondi and his wife, but he ascribed little significance to them.
After what appears to have been a normal childhood with a typical interest in sports — in Pavarotti's case soccer above all — he graduated from the Schola Magistrale and faced the dilemma of a career choice. He was interested in pursuing a career as a professional soccer player, but his mother convinced him to train as a teacher. He subsequently taught in an elementary school for two years but finally allowed his interest in music to win out. Recognizing the risk involved, his father gave his consent only reluctantly, the agreement being that Pavarotti would be given free room and board until age 30, after which time, if he had not succeeded, he would earn a living by any means that he could.
Pavarotti began serious study in 1954 at the age of 19 with Arrigo Pola, a respected teacher and professional tenor in Modena who, aware of the family's indigence, offered to teach without remuneration. Not until commencing study with Pola was Pavarotti aware that he had perfect pitch. At about this time Pavarotti met Adua Veroni, whom he married in 1961. When Pola moved to Japan 2½ years later, Pavarotti became a student of Ettore Campogalliani, who was also teaching Pavarotti's childhood friend, the now well-known soprano Mirella Freni. During his years of study Pavarotti held part-time jobs in order to help sustain himself — first as an elementary school teacher and then, when he failed at that, as an insurance salesman.
The first six years of study resulted in nothing more tangible than a few recitals, all in small towns and all without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal chords causing a "disastrous" concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography, "Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve."