Pavarotti thrills Herodion audience in charity concert

The crowd waiting to enter the Herod Atticus Theater on Wednesday night looked more like a crowd of football fans before a major championship, as the rays of the setting sun cast a rosy glow over the Acropolis. At precisely 8.30 p.m., those with tickets were able to enter the ancient amphitheater, where former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis was one of the first to take his seat along with his wife Marika (soon to be joined by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natassa) next to their hosts for the evening, Vardis Vardinoyiannis and his wife Marianna, president of the Elpida Foundation and a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. At the entrance of top model Naomi Campbell, in Athens for a photo shoot, pandemonium broke out among the photographers; that is, all except for David Bailey, who was there as a member of the audience, the London of the Swinging Sixties far behind him. Finally, at 9.25 p.m., the stage filled with a blue light and from behind the curtain, his trademark white scarf in hand, Pavarotti appeared to tumultuous applause. Accompanied by pianist Leone Magiera, soprano Simona Todar and the Athens State Orchestra, the tenor sang three Italian songs by Tosti, moving on to arias by Bellini, Puccini and Lehar, and closing with Leon Cavallo’s «Matinata.» The crowd called him back for «Granada,» with the entire audience joining in for «O Sole Mio.» Pavarotti was in better form than the last time we saw him in 1991, and afterward, at the official dinner given in his honor by Vardis Vardinoyiannis, he appeared in fine form in a white hat and multicolored scarf. The proceeds of the concert are to go toward the construction of the first Pediatric Oncology Hospital.