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Pavarotti lip-synced final Torino Olympics gig, book reveals

The last time the public saw opera star Luciano Pavarotti sing was actually an elaborately planned, lip-synced performance, a longtime colleague reveals in a new book.

The last time the public saw opera star Luciano Pavarotti sing was actually an elaborately planned, lip-synced performance, a longtime colleague reveals in a new book.

Luciano Pavarotti pre-recorded his vocals and lip-synced his performance during the opening ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, says conductor Leone Magiera. ((Matt Dunham/Associated Press))

Leone Magiera, the Italian tenor's longtime conductor and pianist, makes the revelation in his warm, but still candid, new memoir Pavarotti Visto da Vicino (Pavarotti Seen from Up Close), released last week.

Pavarotti's delivery of his signature aria — Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot — at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics was faked, according to Magiera.

At the time, the world-renowned singer had been feeling ill, which left him unsure of his voice.

"Pavarotti's great career therefore ended with a virtual performance, something sad but inevitable," Magiera writes.

"It would have been too dangerous for him, because of his physical condition, to risk a live performance before a global audience."

Terri Robson, the opera star's former manager, confirmed on Monday that the Olympics performance — seen by millions around the world in February 2006 — was indeed lip-synched. However, Robson said that the decision was made because of the cold weather in Turin at the time.

Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer later that summer and died in September 2007 at age 71.

Performance began days in advance

Magiera's book details the intricacies of the performance in Turin, which began with his recording of several versions of the song with the orchestra before the ceremony.

He then brought the recordings to the tenor's Modena home, where Pavarotti listened to them and proceeded to record his singing of the aria at his home studio.

Also before the opening ceremony, video cameras recorded Pavarotti on stage lip-syncing to the newly recorded track, while Magiera and the orchestra mimed their performance behind him.

The night of the ceremony, they simply repeated this lip-synced and mimed performance, Magiera said.

"The orchestra pretended to play for the audience, I pretended to conduct and Luciano pretended to sing. The effect was wonderful," Magiera writes.

The millions who watched on television were actually watching the pre-recorded video, with a few camera edits from the actual ceremony blended in, and listening to the pre-recorded audio.

Magiera's memoir also shares details about Pavarotti's legendary appetite for food and his romantic entanglements.

With files from the Associated Press

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