The stage curtains pull aside to reveal the wor' />

It's the evening that the 15,000 souls around me at the North Shore Stadium have been waiting for.

The stage curtains pull aside to reveal the world's most celebrated tenor installed behind a bank of flowers. For a moment I was reminded of the eternally preserved Lenin but no, Luciano Pavarotti is alive and smiling beatifically.

The great man sings. The sound system might reduce Leone Magiera's piano to a bar room jangle at times, but three Tosti ballads show just how judiciously Pavarotti uses his voice. There's a touch of overdramatisation in "Non t'ami piu" but "Malia" has real refinement.

After a while, sitting in the field area, one becomes accustomed to the singer's voice echoing back, in yelps, from the grandstand. Simona Todaro's two Bellini songs are gentle pieces, not intended for stadium overkill.

Pavarotti introduces Schubert's "Ave Maria" as his "prayer for peace".

More like a prayer for vocal control, one thinks, as the great voice wavers and duetting is decidedly rough.

The Auckland Philharmonia joins him for a selection from La Boheme and the villainous sound system makes the musicians sound as if they're being heard through a transistor radio, with plucked strings registering like a giant Japanese koto.

There's a real poignancy in Pavarotti's "Che gelida manina", apart from the final note which is as flat as a sheet of lasagne but Todaro's self-possessed Mimi lacks freshness; the duet "O soave fanciulla" gets off to a blowsy start.

In the second half of the concert, "Recondita armonia" and "E lucevan le stelle" reveal the wear and tear on the 70-year-old voice, and his younger companion, too, has shaky moments in her Adriana Lecouvreur aria.

A duet from L'Amico Fritz pleases with its unfamiliarity, but then Todaro dishes up cream puffs from Vienna - two songs from The Merry Widow.

I climb the stairs to hear the encores from the grandstand concourse, free of the irksome echo on the green below. We're on the home straight now, and it's frankly populist. There's "Granada" for the ladies, with spectacular triple-tonguing from the AP trumpets and "O sole mio" for the Italians in the audience.

All that is missing is a chorus, the genial man declares, and the concert ends with the drinking song from La Traviata, karaoke style, with Pavarotti directing an audience who are only too happy to sing for their own supper.