Thousands pay respects to Pavarotti lying in state at Modena cathedral

MODENA: Recordings of Luciano Pavarotti's voice boomed out in Modena's main piazza on Saturday as mourners waited to pay their final respects to the tenor before an invitation-only funeral in his hometown's cathedral.

Some well-wishers waited under the large loudspeakers erected in Piazza Grande, arms crossed and eyes closed as they listened to the voice that was as much at home on stage with rock stars as it was in the world's great opera houses.

Pavarotti's body, dressed in a black tuxedo and with his hands clutching his trademark white handkerchief, went back on view at dawn on Saturday. The cathedral was to remain open to the public until just before the mid-afternoon start of the funeral service, which was being celebrated by the Vatican's No. 2 official and televised live.

“He was our Italian flag. He was the best representation that we could have,'' said Susy Cavallini, a 43-year-old Modena resident as she emerged from the cathedral.

“Modena is known for its cappelletti (a type of tortellini), balsamic vinegar, Ferrari and Pavarotti. It's a collection of important things that Modena has given to the world.''

Admirers signed a book of condolences placed by a vase of sunflowers- Pavarotti's favorite- outside the cathedral. The Foreign Ministry said similar books of condolences would be available to well-wishers around the world at Italian embassies and consulates.

The opera great died on Thursday in his home on Modena's outskirts after battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year. He was 71 and was beloved by generations of opera-goers and pop fans, for his breathtaking high “Cs'' and his hearty renditions of folk songs like “ O Sole Mio ,'' and popular tunes like “ My Way .''