He was famed for popularising opera, exploding its appeal beyond the concert halls and on to the streets. And he did so with one of the most formidable voices in the world.
Early yesterday, that voice fell silent and the world mourned the loss of Luciano Pavarotti, who finally succumbed to the pancreatic cancer that had plagued him for the past year. He died in his home town of Modena, Italy, in the early hours of the morning.
Tributes poured in from statesmen, sportsmen and pop stars alike, in homage to the man whose magnificent voice was known on the football terraces and in the pop charts as well as in the world's opera houses.
His partners in the Three Tenors, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, led the tributes to a great artist and a wonder-ful man. "I always admired the God-given glory of his voice – that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range," said Domingo. "The best memories are the ones in intimacy ... We have to remember him as the great artist he was, a man with such a wonderful charismatic personality," added Carreras.
Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma
The rock singer Bono described the opera star as "a great volcano of a man who sang fire but spilt over with a love of life in all its complexity."
Pavarotti was born in 1935 on the outskirts of Modena to a poor family: his mother, Adele, was a factory worker and his father, Fernando, a baker who, accord-ing to Luciano, should have had a singing career but was too nervous.
It was not an affliction suffered by his son. Since his operatic debut in 1961 the bearded, bear of a man was to become one of the most recognised and most respected classical musicians in the world. Before that, Pavarotti had worked as an insurance salesman and a teacher. His break came at London's Royal Opera House, when in his twenties 1963 he stood in after another singer dropped out of a performance of La Boheme.
But the tenor's fame soared internationally during the 1990 football World Cup in Italy, the theme tune for which was Pavarotti's rendition of " Nessun Dorma", roughly translated as "none shall sleep" and described by Gordon brown yesterday as "the soundtrack of that summer" .
As many of his millions of fans waited anxiously for news into Wednesday night, it eventually became clear the operatic hero was to fall to the cancer which had forced him to cancel the re-maining dates of his 2006 farewell opera tour.
Pavarotti had given his final performance at the Royal Opera House in January 2002, when he sang Tosca in spite of the death of his mother during the final stages of rehearsals. Antonio Pappano, musical director of the ROH, said: "The applause on those evenings was probably the most moving and heartfelt in the history of the Royal Opera."
Pavarotti returned many times to Britain, and a poignant trib-ute also came from the Welsh town of Llangollen, where Pavarotti had travelled in 1955 to compete in the international eisteddfod with his local choir. He was 19 at the time, and train-ing to be a teacher, but after his choir won the festival's choral competition, he decided to be-come a professional singer.
Years later, reflecting on that seminal moment in his early life, he said: " Britain is one of the most important countries for me. This is where the international career really began."
The British soprano Lesley Garrett said he had the "most beautiful voice in the world" and described him as "an absolute giant as an opera singer and as a human being".
The respected soprano Yao Hong, who performed with Pavarotti in Beijing, said: "People may not know opera well but they know who Pavarotti is."