‘Sex is good for you… best on stage during a show’ — inside Pavarotti’s larger-than-life story in new film

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WHEN opera legend Luciano Pavarotti was on his deathbed, he was visited by his ex-wife – who he had left for a woman 34 years her junior.

But instead of bitterness, the charming star told ex Adua Veroni she was “beautiful” and persuaded her to rustle him up his favourite meal of spaghetti Bolognese.

Pavarotti and Princess Diana in 1995 at a concert in aid of the children of Bosnia

Adua was not the only woman Pavarotti put a spell on, as a new documentary from Oscar-winning moviemaker Ron Howard reveals.

According to his former manager, Herbert Breslin, the singer “loved music, women, food and football — in that order”.

The documentary, simply titled Pavarotti and out in the UK next month, details the tenor’s attitude to sex, with footage of him telling reporters of the virtues of Viagra: “Sex is always good for you if your little friend asks for it. It doesn’t matter if it is before or after the show.

“The best thing would be during the show, on the only table on the stage.”

Getty – Contributor

Luciano Pavarotti pictured with his first wife Adua Veroni[/caption]

It also shows how the 25st singer demanded mounds of pasta, Parmesan cheese and salami when he toured.

His idea of dieting was to eat a meal of chicken, beans and mashed potatoes followed by three scoops of ice cream . . . leaving a fourth scoop in the bowl.


Pavarotti became the world’s most famous opera star after his Three Tenors concert in 1994 with Spain’s Plácido Domingo and José Carreras.

Footie fans still love him for his rendition of Nessun Dorma, which the BBC used in its coverage of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

He was often looked after by his grandmother and said being raised by women left him ‘very much spoiled and loved’

But his roots were humble, growing up in Modena, northern Italy. Mum Adele worked in a cigar factory and dad Fernando, who was also a tenor, in a bakery.

He was often looked after by his grandmother and said being raised by women left him “very much spoiled and loved”.

His family was by his hospital bedside when he contracted tetanus at 12 and nearly died. The youngster was in a coma for a fortnight and twice given the last rites.

The experience made him appreciate life to the fullest and, despite his mum’s desire for him to become a teacher, the lifelong Juventus fan set about trying to realise his dream of being a goalkeeper.

Times Newspapers Ltd

Pavarotti and his bride Nicoletta Mantovani on their wedding day in 2001[/caption]

He failed to impress during trials with Modena in the Fifties but, after going on to have voice coaching, soon discovered his perfect pitch had nothing to do with football.

Pavarotti, who married Adua in 1961, initially sang in regional opera houses and thought his big break had come when, in 1963, he was asked to stand in for Giuseppe Di Stefano — another Italian opera great — in La Bohème in London’s West End.

It was a success but the tenor would have to tour throughout the Sixties until, after a show in New York in 1972, people really started to take note of his talent.

Pavarotti sang Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at the city’s Metropolitan Opera, achieving the astonishing feat of hitting nine high Cs in a row. Superstardom had finally arrived.

I fell in love with the man, then I fell in love with the voice

Adua Veroni

Adua, now 81, who had three daughters with him, recalls in the film: “I fell in love with the man, then I fell in love with the voice. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the voice of Luciano Pavarotti?”

Pavarotti’s conquests included Madalyn Renee, a stunning and talented opera singer who he met in 1979 while doing a masterclass in New York at the top Juilliard school.

She became his secretary in exchange for him tutoring her — and passion soon flourished.

Madalyn recalls the tenor being “mischievous” and having a “schoolboy’s sense of humour”.

I never thought I would end up in a relationship with Luciano but it was hard to see where to draw the line

Madalyn Renee

She says: “He would take delight in the little funny things, the stupid things.

“I was accompanying him on tour, he had 28 suitcases, he never packed a suitcase in his life. He was very demanding — God forbid his handkerchiefs were not where they were supposed to be.

“The relationship was so all-encompassing because I was the friend, the student, the secretary. He was my mentor, my teacher, my love.

“I never thought I would end up in a relationship with Luciano but it was hard to see where to draw the line.

New York Times

Opera singer Madelyn Renee became Pavarotti’s secretary in exchange for him tutoring her[/caption]


“I remember a recital and I was backstage holding his hot tea and all of a sudden he dragged me out on stage to sing La Bohème, the duet — the lyrics include, ‘Do you love me?’ and ‘I do!’”

They eventually broke off their affair because Pavarotti was still married to Adua.

Madalyn calls it a “painful moment for me and for him”. They did not speak for years.

With fame also came famous friends. After meeting Princess Diana in 1991 (see top right) he became more involved in charity work.

Rex Features

Pavarotti became the world’s most famous opera star after his Three Tenors concert in 1994[/caption]

His main project was Pavarotti And Friends, the first of a series of concerts with the likes of Elton John and Sting raising money for charities.

After the first of these he met Nicoletta Mantovani, who was working at a horse show between her university studies. She was 23, he was 57.

Nicoletta says: “At the beginning I told everyone I was the assistant, but that was not true.

“It’s not easy to say I’m in a relationship with a man 34 years older. Luciano was my great defender. He was always protecting me.”

Up until now I have loved you. Now I adore you

Soon after they got together, she found out she had MS and feared he would leave her.

But Pavarotti told her: “Up until now I have loved you. Now I adore you.”

The couple kept their relationship secret for years until they were pictured kissing on holiday in Barbados.

Pavarotti’s fans were appalled by the supposedly devout Catholic. Furious Adua filed for divorce and demanded £70million. When Pavarotti refused, she reportedly co-operated with an Italian investigation which led to him paying £7.6million in back taxes.

AP:Associated Press

Pavarotti and his manager-wife Adua separated after 35 years of marriage[/caption]

Adua says she “heard the stories but never wanted to believe them” about Pavarotti’s cheating.

Their divorce went through in 2000. Soon after, Pavarotti rubbed salt in the wound by praising the virtues of Viagra to reporters. He and Nicoletta married in 2003.

Manager Herbert Breslin popularised Pavarotti by making him do recitals and sending him on a tour of rural America, where he indulged himself in triple helpings of macaroni cheese.

It was a new twist on one of Pavarotti’s other major passions — Italian food.

Supplied by Maurizio Marucci, PacificCoastNews.com

Luciano Pavarotti at the age of four[/caption]

At his heaviest, he weighed 25st. In the documentary a fellow Italian opera singer says that Pavarotti asked him to bring KILOS of tortellini, Parmesan cheese and salami with him when he visited him on tour.

On a month-long trip to China in 1986, he asked two chefs from Genoa to go with him and at their Beijing hotel, two rooms were turned into a kitchen as he refused to eat Chinese food.

Such trips left Pavarotti feeling “lonely” so he turned to his big entourage to keep him company, including female company.

Adua said that his bravado was a sham and after their split the “public opinion of Pavarotti changed” and the “image of the sublime singer fell”.

Getty – Contributor

Pavarotti performs onstage at the Poplar Creek Music Theater in 1984[/caption]


Around this time Nicoletta became pregnant with twins — the son was stillborn but the daughter, Alice, became a light in Pavarotti’s life.

In the later stages of his career Pavarotti was hammered by critics, who said his arrogance, once unquestioned as part of his talent, was now unacceptable.

He failed to show up at concerts and bumbled his way through shows, cracking jokes to stall for time. Pavarotti continued looking for new collaborators and persuaded Bono to do a song with him, bombarding his Italian housekeeper with phone calls.

He eventually turned up on Bono’s doorstep in Dublin and forced him into the studio.

PA:Press Association

The Prince and Princess of Wales sitting alongside Prime Minister John Major and the Duchess of York during the Pavarotti open air concert in Hyde Park[/caption]

The result was the haunting Miss Sarajevo, for the victims of war in the former Yugoslavia.

In the film, Bono jokingly calls Pavarotti “one of the great emotional arm wrestlers — he will break your f***ing arm”.

In 2004 Pavarotti began a 40-concert tour but got criticised by sniffy opera fans for not hitting the notes like he used to.

The U2 frontman said the cracks in his voice were a sign “he has lived these songs” and that he had to “break his heart again and again” to sing them.

AP:Associated Press

Princess Diana and Pavarotti pictured after the Hyde Park concert[/caption]

In 2006, before the tour was finished, Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, prompting a tumultuous final 14 months of his life. His friend of 30 years, Dr Lidia La Marca, claimed Nicoletta was trying to force him to sign an “American” will.

Pavarotti supposedly confided to Dr La Marca that he was thinking of leaving Nicoletta and changed his will two weeks before he died to cut her out.

He died in September 2007, aged 71, in Modena, where 50,000 people filed past his coffin in respect.

A year-long legal battle between Adua and her three daughters and Nicoletta ensued over his £250million fortune.

They eventually agreed a settlement.

Had Pavarotti been alive, he would have doubtless tried to end the conflict. In a home video shot in his last months, he admits one of his few regrets was that he “wasn’t the father I wanted to be”.

But he said it with a smile and while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Even at the end, he had not lost any of his charm.

  • Pavarotti will be in cinemas nationwide from July 15.


PAVAROTTI became good friends with Princess Diana after they met in July 1991.

He was performing a concert in London’s Hyde Park and she was in the front row next to Prince Charles.

The rain was torrential but, according to the film, Diana saved the day by being the first to put down her brolly.

Everyone else followed suit – no more brollies blocking the view.

Pavarotti serenaded her, dedicating the song Donna Non Vidi Mai (I Have Never Seen A Woman Like That) to her, and she blushed.

The film describes how their connection that day was “magical, like out of a fairytale”. Diana later went backstage and was “giggling” with Pavarotti.

Over dinner that night they “hit it off famously” and “became really good friends”, thanks to their “wicked sense of humour”, the film says.

Until that point Pavarotti had only been interested in furthering his career, but meeting Diana changed him and he began to raise more money for charity.


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