Source AP ©

Pavarotti to receive government prize

Italian Government will award opera star Luciano Pavarotti for his work promoting Italian culture in his country and abroad.

The 71-year-old tenor, who has been fighting pancreatic cancer, is the first recipient of the prize, the Culture Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. No date has been set for the award ceremony.

"This prize fills me with joy and pride," the ANSA news agency quoted Pavarotti as saying Wednesday.

Last month, the star was hospitalized for two weeks in his hometown of Modena with high fever. The tenor had cancer surgery at a New York hospital in July 2006 and has made no public appearances since then.

Milan's La Scala opera house, where Pavarotti first performed over 40 years ago, said it would join a Modena theater in organizing a singing contest dedicated to the Italian maestro.

"It is a precious chance to pay homage to the career of Luciano Pavarotti, a symbol of Italian music in the world," La Scala said in a statement.

Pavarotti welcomed the idea, saying he hoped the contest would "open the door to young people."

"I've always thought that our real value, our real strength lies in the enthusiasm, the devotion and the encouragement we can transmit to the young," Pavarotti told ANSA.

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