Pavarotti Receives Final Standing Ovation During Funeral In Italy

Saturday, September 8th 2007, 7:12 pm
By: News On 6

MODENA, Italy (AP) _ Luciano Pavarotti received a final, tearful standing ovation at his somber funeral Saturday after a recording of the Italian tenor and his father singing ``Panis Angelicus'' filled his hometown cathedral.

Many of the mourners cried as Pavarotti's unmistakable voice filled the cathedral, a poignant reminder of the talent lost with his death Thursday at age 71 after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Pavarotti and his father had sung the duet in 1978 in the same cathedral _ an event Archbishop Benito Cocchi said was described by someone who attended it as ``a weaving of two tenors.''

In a series of eulogies, Pavarotti was remembered as one of the world's greatest singers, a symbol of Italy, a humanitarian and _ in a message from his 4-year-old daughter Alice _ a father.

``Papa, you have loved me so much. I know you will always protect me,'' his daughter said in a message read during the service, while her mother, Nicoletta Mantovani, sobbed in the front row.

Among the 700 guests were Italian Premier Romano Prodi, U2 lead singer Bono, U2 guitarist The Edge, movie director Franco Zeffirelli and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Also sitting in the front row were Pavarotti's first wife, Adua, his three grown daughters and his sister.

The 90-minute service was filled with music, from Bulgarian-born soprano Raina Kabaivanska, who cried as she sang the opening hymn, Verdi's ``Ave Maria,'' to tenor Andrea Bocelli's ``Ave Verum'' during the communion. Flutist Andrea Griminelli played a solo.

Thousands of admirers filled the piazza outside the cathedral watching the service on a big screen. The crowd erupted in applause when the white, maple casket covered with flowers _ including Pavarotti's favorite, sunflowers _ was carried outside by 11 pallbearers. At the same instant, the Italian air force's precision flying team roared overhead, trailing vapors of green, red and white _ the colors of the Italian flag.

Modena's streets were filled with admirers who applauded as a black hearse bearing Pavarotti's body went by. The tenor was buried at Montale Rangone cemetery, where members of his family, including his parents and stillborn son Riccardo, are also interred.

In his homily, Cocchi said the presence of so many dignitaries was a sign ``of the esteem, the affection and the gratitude that universally surrounds the great artist.''

But he said it was also significant how Modena residents paid tribute to their native son, breaking their silent vigil outside the cathedral when Pavarotti's body arrived Thursday night with applause ``not joyous, as in other occasions, but intense and sincere.''

``The death of Luciano Pavarotti has made us feel more impoverished,'' the archbishop said. ``The maestro was and will always be a symbol for our city.''

Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram, saying Pavarotti had ``honored the divine gift of music through his extraordinary interpretative talent.''

Prodi praised Pavarotti for his humanitarian work and peace efforts and also expressed the gratitude of all Italians for the image of the nation he carried to all corners of the globe.

``Italy is sad today but it is also proud of him,'' Prodi said during the service. ``Here, in the cathedral of his hometown, Italy expresses its gratitude to him.''

Pavarotti was beloved by generations of opera-goers and pop fans alike for his breathtaking high Cs, hearty renditions of popular folk songs like ``O Sole Mio'' and collaborations with singers such as Bono, with whom he recorded ``Miss Sarajevo'' in 1995 to raise money to help rebuild Bosnia.

Pavarotti was the world's best-selling classical artist, with more than 100 million records sold since the 1960s, and he had the first classical album to reach No. 1 on the pop charts.

During a public viewing period that began Thursday night and continued until hours before the funeral, more than 100,000 people filed past Pavarotti's casket and filled condolence books placed by vases of sunflowers outside the cathedral. Similar books are being made available at Italian embassies and consulates around the world, the Foreign Ministry said.

``You can feel the legend. You feel it from the air that circulates inside the cathedral,'' said Susy Cavallini, a 43-year-old Modena resident. ``He was an exceptional man, for his humanity, for his culture and for his friendships.''

That Pavarotti _ a divorced man who had a child out of wedlock _ was given a public viewing and a funeral in the cathedral spurred some debate. A Modena parish priest, the Rev. Giorgio Bellei, told the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper that the move amounted to ``profanation of the temple.''

Other critics noted that last year, the Catholic church in Rome refused to grant a religious funeral to a paralyzed man who had a doctor disconnect his respirator.

Funeral director Gianni Gibellini said Bellei should have ``kept his mouth sewn shut'' and that the Modena bishop had approved Pavarotti's funeral plans.

Cocchi appeared to address the issue, saying, ``Pavarotti, with a faith that he never repudiated or hid and which he expressed consistently with his singing, is no stranger in this cathedral.''