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Pavarotti's Widow Denounces Gossip

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NICOLE WINFIELD | October 27, 2007 08:06 PM EST | AP

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ROME — Luciano Pavarotti's widow denounced the "unseemly" gossip swirling in the Italian media alleging financial and family problems, saying Saturday she felt compelled to set the record straight for the sake of their young daughter.

Nicoletta Mantovani appeared on RAI state television, granting her first interview since the Sept. 6 death of the great Italian tenor.

She set out to publicly defend herself and Pavarotti against a series of Italian media reports alleging that Pavarotti had left her $26 million in debt, that she was fighting with his daughters from his first marriage over his will and that their marriage had been on the rocks before he died.

She denied Pavarotti had left her in debt, or that she was squabbling with his three adult daughters over the terms of his will. Pavarotti left half of his estate to Mantovani and half to his four 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 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."

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.

Pavarotti was beloved by generations of opera-goers and pop fans alike for his breathtaking high Cs, hearty renditions of popular folk songs like "O Sole Mio" and collaborations with singers such as Bono, Elton John and the Spice Girls.

Mantovani also confirmed media reports that she has multiple sclerosis, saying that while she had kept the condition private for 13 years, she did not want it to appear that she was ashamed of it.

She recalled that when she told Pavarotti of her diagnosis _ just six months into their 13-year relationship _ she told 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.'"