By Nicole Winfield, AP
ROME — Luciano Pavarotti’s widow denounced the “unseemly” gossip swirling in the Italian media alleging financial and family problems, saying she felt compelled to set the record straight for the sake of their young daughter. Nicoletta Mantovani appeared on RAI state television Saturday, granting her first interview since the Sept. 6 death of the great Italian tenor. She said she felt compelled to publicly defend herself and Pavarotti against a series of Italian media reports alleging that Pavarotti had left her euro18 million (US$26 million) in debt, she was fighting with his daughters from his first marriage over his will and their marriage had been on the rocks before he died. Mantovani said she had never imagined that she would go on TV to discuss such personal issues, but that she felt obliged to set the record straight because Pavarotti could no longer do so himself and because their 4-year-old daughter, Alice, would one day want to learn more about her father. “I owe it to the two people closest to me,” Mantovani said. “If they insult me, it can pass with patience, I’m here and can defend myself. But Luciano can’t, and Alice is a 4-year-old child.” “I imagine that she at a certain point will want to reconstruct who her father was. She will find so much material, but unfortunately from this period, she will also find so many awful things.” She said she wanted to leave Alice with solid evidence that she had defended herself and Pavarotti from the gossip — much of it attributed to friends of the tenor — adding that she was recording the session at home so Alice could watch it one day. She denied Pavarotti had left her in debt, or that she was squabbling with his three adult daughters from his first marriage over the terms of his will.
Pavarotti left half of his estate to Mantovani and half to Alice and the three adult daughters. “Luciano was someone who took care of everything in every sense. He took care of the affective side and the material side, meaning he left enough for everyone,” she said. She stressed: “Between me and his daughters, there is no disagreement.” “The press and television that is trying to incriminate that relationship is truly unseemly,” she said. Mantovani confirmed media reports that she has multiple sclerosis, saying that while it had been a condition she had kept private for 13 years, she did not want it to appear that it was something to be ashamed of. She recalled that when she told Pavarotti of her diagnosis — just six months into their 13-year relationship — she told him that she would not be able to keep traveling with him, that she did not want to weigh him down with her treatments. “He told me: ‘Last night I loved you. Today, I adore you,”’ at which point she broke down.