Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti died in the early hours of Thursday, his agent said.

Here are some key facts on Pavarotti.


-- Pavarotti was born in the Italian town of Modena in October 1935. Sports occupied much of his time and he earned his first local fame as a member of the town's soccer team.

-- He first sang in the Modena chorus with his father, a fervent opera lover and gifted amateur tenor.


-- His debut came in April 1961, in Puccini's popular opera La Boheme, at the opera house in Reggio Emilia. That success led to engagements throughout Italy and the world, where he conquered audiences in Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich, New York and London.

-- His big break came in London thanks to another Italian opera great tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a performance of La Boheme in 1963.

-- His American debut came in February 1965, in a Miami production of an opera by Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland, the beginning of what would become an historic partnership.


-- In 1972, in a production of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment Pavarotti sang an aria containing nine effortless high C's. The audience erupted in a frenzied ovation, and the young tenor's reputation soared beyond the confines of opera and classical music.


-- In 1990 Pavarotti joined Spanish stars Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras at the soccer World Cup and introduced operatic classics to millions of football fans around the world.

-- Sales of opera albums shot up after the gala concert in Rome's Baths of Caracalla was beamed to 800 million people, and strains of Puccini's Nessun Dorma from his opera Turandot became as fixed a feature of football mania as the usual more raucous chants.


-- While Pavarotti's stage star faded in his sixties, he found new personal life, leaving his wife of 37 years for an assistant 34 years his junior and younger than his three daughters. The black-bearded singer married Nicoletta Mantovani after an acrimonious divorce.

-- Medical problems beset Big Luciano in the final years of his career, forcing him to cancel several dates of his marathon worldwide farewell tour. He underwent surgery in July 2006 to remove a pancreatic tumor and was not seen in public after that.

Sources: Reuters/Sony/