Mr. Pavarotti's career moved into a new phase when he was spotted by stellar soprano Joan Sutherland and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge. The young tenor's U.S. debut, in 1965 at Florida Grand Opera (then called Greater Miami Opera), was opposite Sutherland in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.
The two singers then toured Australia performing several Italian operas. The tenor, in his 1981 book Pavarotti: My Own Story, called this venture "the final important experience of my education as a singer."
Although his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968 -- La Boheme again -- went well, Mr. Pavarotti was ill with the flu at the time and, by his own admission, not at his best.
His best came soon enough, in 1972, when he sang Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment at the Met and thoroughly conquered the house, delivering the demanding aria, Ah, mes amis, with its famous nine high Cs, effortlessly and brilliantly. He took 17 curtain calls that night.
A particularly intense love affair between Mr. Pavarotti and Met audiences continued for many years. Among the high points of that rapport was the first "Live From the Met" telecast on PBS in 1977, a performance of La Boheme.
"Naturally, we were already nervous to be singing live on television," Mr. Pavarotti wrote in an essay for The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia (1987). "Then somebody told me I'd be singing in that one performance to more people than ever heard Caruso in his entire career. I wonder that I made [it] out of my dressing room."
The tenor's superstar status was indisputable by that point. It only increased when he added concertizing to his busy schedule in opera houses around the world.
Mr. Pavarotti's separate concert career began in earnest in 1973 and never stopped. He created a new persona in this format, always clutching a huge white handkerchief (more of a dinner napkin, actually) -- an image that gained iconic status. The familiar sight of the tenor, at the end of each aria, stretching out his arms in a grand, embracing gesture likewise became a Pavarotti trademark.
Locally, his appearances included a 1985 concert before a crowd of 14,000 at the Baltimore Civic Center and a return engagement in 1989 before 10,000 fans at the site, then renamed the Baltimore Arena.
Such large-scale, heavily-amplified events did not necessarily bring out the best of the singer's talents, or earn universal praise in the music world. A common view, expressed in 1997 by noted critic Peter G. Davis, decried "a prodigiously gifted singer who turned slovenly, unmusical, and uncaring whenever he stooped to entertain the masses."
There were also complaints in the press when, during a fundraising concert in Italy in the mid-1990s, Mr. Pavarotti lip-synched some of the music.
Other controversies occurred along the way, including a parting of ways in 2003 with longtime manager Herbert Breslin, who went on to write an often unflattering book about the singer.
Mr. Pavarotti made another round of headlines when he and his wife, Adua Veroni, went through a bitter divorce after 35 years of marriage. In 2003, the singer then married his secretary, Nicoletta Mantovani, 34 years his junior; the couple had been living together since the mid-1990s.
Both women survive Mr. Pavarotti, as do four daughters -- three from his first marriage -- and one granddaughter.
Whatever bloom was lost in the closing chapters of Mr. Pavarotti's career, there was always enough of the great artist and the gleaming sound left in the tenor to disarm most listeners, to generate enthusiasm and even gratitude, right up to his final performances.
In the end, nothing can diminish the record of his finest work from his peak decades, a great deal of it preserved on disc and video. It remains a benchmark of lyrical singing -- a model of vocal production, refined articulation, and poetic, visceral communication.
The force of his dynamic personality and unmistakable star quality will not likely be encountered again for a very long time.