Late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti threatened to kill himself after his marriage began to unravel, it has been claimed.

According to friends of the legendary singer cited in Italian media reports, Pavarotti said he was ready to shoot himself over the breakdown of his relationship with second wife Nicoletta Mantovani, 37.

Dr Lidia La Marca, the wife of conductor Leone Magiera and reportedly a close friend of the star, told a newspaper how Pavarotti had confided in her while in hospital.

She said the singer, who died last week at the age of 71 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, had asked others with them in his hospital room to leave in order to talk to her.

"He just unleashed himself like a child," Dr La Marca told La Stampa newspaper of the conversation she claims they had when alone.

"He said, 'I am in a bad way. In these last years Nicoletta is tormenting me. I am isolated, my friends don't come and see me anymore, she speaks badly about my daughters and she surrounds me with people I don't like."

After recounting a list of complaints Pavarotti apparently had with his wife, she added that he then told her "something which gave me goosebumps".

"He said, 'You know, Lidia, how this will end? I will shoot myself or we will separate'," she said.

The Bologna gynaecologist said she was revealing such details because Pavarotti, said to be a friend of hers for 30 years, had asked her to.

"He said, 'After my funeral you can say these things'. I think it's my moral duty to do so and this is exactly what he told me," she continued.

Already a household name in operatic circles, Pavarotti, became renowned around the globe after singing the theme tune to the Italia 90 World Cup.

During a 40-year career, he sang with fellow operatic greats and other musical acts from Barry White to the Spice Girls.

Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last summer and was forced to cancel a farewell tour after undergoing surgery.

13/09/2007 11:29:34