MODENA, Italy — Luciano Pavarotti received a final, tearful standing ovation after a recording of the great Italian tenor singing a duet of “Panis Angelicus” with his father was played during a somber funeral service Saturday in his hometown cathedral.
Many of the mourners cried as the tenor’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.”