Thousands Celebrate Pavarotti’s Art and Humanity


MODENA, Italy, Sept. 8 — Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian tenor, was eulogized on Saturday as a “great artist” with “a profound sense of humanity” in the same cathedral where he once sang in the children’s choir.
During a musical career that spanned nearly 50 years, Mr. Pavarotti bridged highbrow and pop culture. He died near here on Thursday at 71 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer.
The celebrity guest list at the funeral on Saturday reflected the diverse worlds straddled by Mr. Pavarotti, who was distinguished as much by his powerful voice as by his boyish charm.
In the pews of Modena’s 12th-century Romanesque cathedral sat Franco Zeffirelli, who directed Mr. Pavarotti in Puccini’s “Tosca” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1985; Joseph Volpe, the Met’s former general manager; Bono, the lead singer of U2; and the Italian rock stars Zucchero Fornaciari and Jovanotti. Political leaders included Romano Prodi, Italy’s prime minister; Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general; and two Italian government ministers.
“For years, many famous but also common people were united by his voice,” said Mr. Prodi, who called the tenor “a messenger of peace and fraternity.”
All of Italy grieves for the singer, said Mr. Prodi, “but we are proud of him.”
In a message of condolence, Pope Benedict XVI said the artist had “honored the divine gift of music through his extraordinary interpretive talent.”
Visibly moved, Raina Kabaivanska, a soprano and longtime friend and sometime co-star, opened the ceremony with the “Ave Maria” prayer from Verdi’s “Otello.” Andrea Bocelli, another tenor who has enjoyed crossover success, later sang Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus.”
Outside the church, thousands of people watched the proceedings on two large screens and applauded at the end of each aria.
The Corale Rossini, the local choir in which Mr. Pavarotti sang in the 1950s, accompanied the entrance of the 18 celebrants and other hymns during the 90-minute Mass. Personal reflections from his widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, her daughter and his daughters from his first marriage, to Adua Veroni, were read.
Near the end of the ceremony, Mr. Pavarotti’s distinctive voice, which captivated millions of passionate fans, rang out in a 1978 recording of César Franck’s “Panis Angelicus,” a duet with his father, Fernando, a tenor who first instilled a love of music in his son.
It was followed by a standing ovation and long applause both inside and outside the cathedral.
As his coffin emerged from the cathedral to more applause and the strains of “Nessun Dorma,” the Puccini “Turandot” aria that was Mr. Pavarotti’s signature piece, Italy’s aerobatics squadron flew over twice, leaving a stream of red, white and green smoke, the colors of the Italian flag.
During three days of mourning, his love for this city was amply returned by its residents.
“The maestro was, and will always remain, a symbol of our city,” said Archbishop Benito Cocchi in the eulogy, which also recalled the tenor’s charity work in many “initiatives of great social value.”
Beginning Thursday evening, more than 100,000 residents and others came to the cathedral to pay their respects to the tenor, who lay in a white maple coffin lined in dark red velvet, dressed in a black tuxedo. He clutched a silver rosary and his trademark white silk scarf.
After the funeral, Mr. Pavarotti’s body was taken to the Montale Rangone cemetery, where he was buried in a private ceremony next to his parents and a stillborn son.
“He was more than just a voice,” said one local resident, Milena Montecchi. “He had charisma. There are plenty of good singers. He had something more.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company