Mantovani said her late husband, who was its inaugural recipient, was aware of the award and very happy about it. "I'm sure Luciano is smiling at us from up above," she said.
The biannual prize comprising a medal and certificate honors those whose work promotes Italian arts domestically and internationally. Its announcement was interpreted by some U.S. and British journalists as further indication that Pavarotti's death was near. A statement Pavarotti issued on receiving award was among his last public remarks:
"It fills me with joy and pride that my long career has been recognized, in which I have had the honor of being the standard bearer for Italian culture ... I am overcome with gratitude and emotion at this prize which will celebrate the magic of a life spent in art, and will open doors for the young."