PEKING — Tenor Luciano Pavarotti took Chinese opera fans by storm Tuesday.
Hundreds of cheering Chinese swarmed into the aisles waving hands and programs in the air as the rotund opera singer delivered arias and Italian folk songs before 2,700 people, in a recital also carried live on Peking radio.
"I've never seen anything like it," said a British student as the concert ended after five encores. "Even at a rock concert here the response was nothing like this."
Pavarotti told reporters after the concert, which preceded his performance in Puccini's "La Boheme," that he was surprised and touched by the response.
"I think that's the most encores I've ever given," he said.
"Pavarotti is No. 1," said a young Chinese man who listened to the performance with tears in his eyes, from time to time conducting gently in his seat.
Observers reported scalpers charging the equivalent of $25 for tickets worth $2.50 outside the exhibition hall. The average Chinese city dweller makes about $19 a month.
Pavarotti sang in a black tuxedo against a backdrop of green and red velvet in the Art Deco-style hall adorned with Communist hammer and sickle emblems.
His performance of "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci" drew roars of applause.
Many Chinese audience members said they had been Pavarotti fans for years through hearing his records and tapes. "We never thought we'd see him in person," one girl said. "We're lucky."
Pavarotti arrived in Peking from Genoa, Italy, on Sunday with two cooks and an entourage of about 300, his staff said. He is on tour with the Genoa Municipal Opera Theatre, which is scheduled to perform "La Boheme" here tonight.