Salvatore Licitra dies at 43; Sicilian tenor

Rome — Salvatore Licitra, a tenor known in his Italian homeland as the “new Pavarotti,” died Monday at age 43 after nine days in a coma following a motor scooter accident in Sicily.

Garibaldi Hospital in Catania, Sicily, announcing the death, said Licitra never regained consciousness after suffering severe head and chest injuries in the Aug. 27 accident. Doctors had said Licitra crashed his scooter into a wall near the town of Ragusa, apparently after suffering an interruption of blood to the brain while driving.

The hospital said Licitra’s family agreed to make his organs available for transplant.

“So very sad to say goodbye to Salvatore Licitra. I will miss you,” soprano Deborah Voigt, a frequent onstage partner, wrote on her Facebook page.


“Licitra represented the school and tradition of Italian song, in his natural relationships to words,” the La Scala opera house wrote in its own announcement of the tenor’s death. “A decade of his personal history was interwoven with our theater.”

La Scala noted that Licitra debuted in the famed Milan venue in the 1998-99 season, with maestro Riccardo Muti conducting him in Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino.”

But it was on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York that Licitra, the Swiss-born son of Sicilian parents, grabbed the world’s attention. In 2002 he subbed for mega-tenor Luciano Pavarotti in a gala performance of Puccini’s “Tosca,” wowing the audience and winning long ovations for his two big arias. The audience’s response brought tears to his eyes.

Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, hailed Licitra as “one of the greatest natural tenor talents of his generation. His premature death is tragic for his family, friends and loved ones, and his legions of admirers around the world, which include his many fans at the Met.”


The tenor made his debut in Parma, Italy, in 1998.

He had traveled to the Ragusa area in late summer ahead of a ceremony to receive a local music prize.