Pavarotti's condition has improved, wife says


MODENA, Italy -- Opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti, diagnosed with cancer last year, is doing better and even joking around after being admitted to hospital two days ago, his wife said Friday.

Pavarotti, 71, regarded by many as the greatest tenor of his generation, was taken to hospital with a high fever in his home town of Modena on Wednesday. He is being treated in the hospital's cancer ward, with guards stationed outside.

"He is calm, he is talking and joking," Pavarotti's wife, Nicoletta Mantovani, who is 34 years his junior, told reporters as she left the hospital on Friday morning.

"The doctors are very positive," she said, adding that he would be discharged in the next few days.

The hospital said Thursday his condition was satisfactory and that he was likely to be discharged soon. It confirmed that outlook on Friday.

Local media said Pavarotti, who underwent surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor in July 2006, was suffering from a respiratory infection complicated by kidney problems.

The singer has not been seen in public since the cancer operation, which forced him to cancel the remaining dates of his 2006 farewell opera tour.

After the surgery, Pavarotti had vowed to return to the stage this year, but he has called off a number of appearances in the past few months, fuelling media speculation about his condition.

Reports have said the singer, who has a 5-year-old daughter with Mantovani, is confined to a wheelchair.

Since his operatic debut in 1961, the rotund, black-bearded tenor has become one of the most recognized classical musicians in the world, regularly gracing the stage at New York's Metropolitan Opera, London's Covent Garden and Milan's La Scala.

His fame grew when he sang the "Nessun Dorma" aria from Giacomo Puccini's opera "Turandot" at the soccer World Cup in Italy in 1990 alongside Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

Pavarotti's manager Terri Robson last month denied his condition had worsened. She said he was working on a recording of sacred songs and also teaching students daily.

News of his admission to hospital shook Modena, famous as the land of balsamic vinegar and home to the factories of luxury car brands Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini.

"In the 1990s, I went all the way to New York to see him sing, and today I am sad and worried," 77-year-old pensioner Annamaria Corghe said.

"He has truly been a great. The others are good, but one wonders who will come after him."