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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ROBERT SMITH, host:

And I'm Robert Smith.

By now, most of you have heard that tenor Luciano Pavarotti died in his native Italy early this morning.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LUCIANO PAVAROTTI (Opera Singer): (Singing in Italian)

(Soundbite of applause)

BRAND: Pavarotti was the best-known opera singer in the world. Sometimes, he crossed over into the pop music spotlight.

Here's NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates with more.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Luciano Pavarotti was bigger than life in a lot of ways.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

BATES: He was a big man with a big voice and big appetites - for food, for women, for attention. His extraordinary tenor was instantly recognizable even to people with a very casual acquaintance with opera.

(Soundbite of "Nessun Dorma" by Giacomo Puccini )

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

BATES: That's from one of his most beloved arias, "Nessun Dorma." It's from Puccini's "Turandot." Pavarotti's fame outside the opera community came in large part from his willingness to collaborate with other musicians quite different from his classical kin. One of the most memorable involved an appearance in his hometown, Modena, in 2002 with none other than the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

(Soundbite of song, "It's a Man's Man's World" by James Brown)

Mr. JAMES BROWN (Singer): (Singing) And after man has made everything he can...

BATES: Here's a duet but normally wouldn't be heard at La Scala or the MET.

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Man has lira, pesos, dollars, rubles, to buy up every good woman. Every man... It is a man's world...

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

BATES: An unusual combination, but it worked. Pavarotti was silk to James Brown's leather. And Brown wasn't the only one. Here, Pavarotti and growling rocker Lou Reed dream about a "Perfect Day."

(Soundbite of song, "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed)

Mr. LOU REED (Singer): (Singing) And then home...

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

BATES: Sometimes, pop stars played in his sandbox. In 1992, Sting joined Pavarotti for "Nessun Dorma" and Pavarotti generously gave Sting center stage.

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

STING (Singer): (Singing in Italian)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. PAVAROTTI: (Singing in Italian)

STING: (Singing in Italian)

BATES: That night, to borrow from one of Sting's signature songs, they set the battlements on fire. And those partnerships ensured that Luciano Pavarotti will be mourned far beyond the platinum borders of the worldwide opera community.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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