ROME, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti died early Thursday morning at his villa in Modena at the age of 71, after battling cancer for over a year.
The singer, who made his opera debut in 1961 and went on to become one of the world's most famous tenors, was diagnosed with a malignant pancreatic tumor in July 2006, and underwent surgery.
His manager Terri Robson said in a statement: "The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness."
Pavarotti died at 5 a.m. local time (3:00 a.m. GMT), surrounded by his wife, four daughters, sister, and other family members. In August he had been hospitalized with a fever, but was sent home, where he spent his final weeks.
The singer's debut performance 46 years ago was in the role of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. Two years later he rose to international fame after singing in the same role at Covent Garden, London.
The tenor was unique in his genre for the scale of his commercial success, and his fame outside the classical music world. The trio of Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, dubbed the 'Three Tenors' sang to vast audiences, commanding astronomic performance fees.
After hundreds of millions of television viewers saw the trio perform Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turandot at the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy, the aria became Pavarotti's signature song, and is still widely associated with him.
From the onset of his media success in the 1970s, Pavarotti was criticized by classical music connoisseurs for his populism and commercialism, but the tenor said it was his goal to bring opera to the masses.
As a young man, Pavarotti earned his living as a primary school teacher, and later paid for singing lessons by selling insurance. Known for his trademark black beard, tuxedo and wide girth, he reportedly reached a maximum weight of 180 kilograms (397 pounds) in his 40s.
The Maestro's final performance was at the Winter Olympics in Turin in February last year.