Italian tenor Di Stefano dies aged 86

Mon Mar 3, 2008 1:08pm EST
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ROME (Reuters) - Italian tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano, to whom Luciano Pavarotti owed his launch to stardom, died in Milan on Monday. He was 86.

Di Stefano died after a long coma caused by an attack during a robbery at his Kenyan holiday home in late 2004.

Fellow Italian tenor Pavarotti, who died last year, had his big break when Di Stefano dropped out of a performance of "La Boheme" at London's Covent Garden in 1963. Pavarotti performed as the stand-in and a star was born.

Local media said Di Stefano had never fully recovered from the savage beating he received from unknown assailants at his villa near the eastern Kenyan resort of Mombasa.

Treated for serious head injuries, he was moved to a hospital in Milan where he slipped into a coma last December.

Born in Sicily, Di Stefano made his operatic debut in 1946 and his debut at La Scala in Milan the following year. He made many recordings with Maria Callas and Pavarotti.

(Editing by Charles Dick)