Luciano Pavarotti in a 1999 performanceThe celebrated Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at age 71. Thousands of mourners are lined up in Modena, Italy, to pay their respects.

He fully earned such admiration. Pavoratti employed his beautiful voice, superb diction, and bouyant, charismatic personality to bring to a mass audience a greater appreciation of the highest forms of vocal performance.

His life’s work was an accomplishment greatly to be honored, and he surely must go into history as one of the greats at his art form.

The AP story notes the magnitude of his commercial success: "He was the best-selling classical artist, with more than 100 million records sold since the 1960s, and he had the first classical album to reach No. 1 on the pop charts."

Opera was decidedly out of the mainstream when Pavarotti began his life’s work, and he led an extraordinary revival that returned it to cultural prominence.

Through efforts such as duets with popular non-opera performers, guest appearances on television, and his hugely popular "Three Tenors" tours with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, Pavarotti commercialized opera without ever vulgarizing it.

His joy in his work was manifest, and through it he was able to reach people who would never otherwise have learned to appreciate this type of music.

A statement by Pavarotti on his website summarizes it well: "I think a life in music is a life beautifully spent, and this is what I have devoted my life to."

Beautifully spent indeed, and at what great profit for us all!