Luciano Pavarotti has confided he is "unlikely" to perform at his much-touted farewell New York opera tomorrow — triggering fears of a Pava-riot at the Met.
Aficionados paid up to $1,875 a ticket to see the legendary Pavarotti perform Tosca after the Metropolitan Opera dramatically inflated prices on the understanding it would be his final staged opera here.
The show is also to be broadcast live on giant screens — for free — to 3,000 people at the Lincoln Center Plaza.
Tensions are already running high at the Met after last-minute attempts to cajole the temperamental tenor onto the stage for Wednesday night's performance failed, leaving general manager Joseph Volpe to face a loud chorus of boos from the audience.
Fears over another no-show heightened last night when the ailing, 66-year-old superstar failed to appear at an award ceremony, and told its organizers from his Central Park South home that it was "unlikely" he would be well enough to sing tomorrow.
"He said he was feeling unwell and he said that Saturday was unlikely — that's his word," one source said.
Consul General of Italy Giorgio Radicati was to have presented the portly Pavarotti with a "lifetime achievement award for . . . profound contributions to world culture."
He's now scheduled to do it Sunday.
Pavarotti's flacks said his doctor had advised him to keep his mouth shut for 48 hours due to a bout with the flu. But they said they remain hopeful he would recover by tomorrow night.
A source at the Met said yesterday, "Everyone is very, very concerned — you can imagine how the audience will react."
Opera devotee Ed Rosen, of Mineola, L.I., who saw Pavarotti's first Met performance in 1968 and has a ticket for tomorrow, said audience members might revolt if Pavarotti fails to take the stage.
"Who knows what Saturday will bring — but if he cancels, I fear it will bring a near-riot from folks who paid absurdly inflated prices to see him," he said.
Met spokesman Francois Giuliani declined to comment on Pavarotti's health, but confirmed that all of 3,000 tickets, priced between $75 and $1,875, had been sold for tomorrow's concert.
The show would go on without Pavarotti, and the Met does not normally refund tickets if a performer fails to appear.
Other fans pounded opera Web sites yesterday, questioning whether the maestro was really sick.
"No one seems to get sick faster than an opera singer, and some singers appear to be more sickly than any person I have ever known — don't they get flu shots?" one wag asked.
The Met pays big-time performers up to $20,000 a concert, according to opera critic James Jorden, but a Met spokesman did not respond to questions about Pavarotti's paycheck — or whether he'd get it if he cancels.
Jorden, publisher of the web site www.parterre.com, said he had spoken to three people who watched Pavarotti perform well at a rehearsal Monday.
"He was drinking water and conserving energy by sitting down a lot, but he sang the whole dress rehearsal," Jorden said.
"To say that he has the flu, that's a little strange — maybe he warmed up [on Wednesday] and felt he couldn't get through and thought it was better to wait for Saturday."
Charles Handelman, of Jackson Heights, Queens, said he was so disappointed after Pavarotti ruined his night at the opera Wednesday that he stormed out in protest.
"I was really looking forward to cheering his entrance and to give him credit for a great career — no matter how he sounded," he said. "Instead, I went all the way into the city for nothing."
The Met had said at around 4 p.m. Wednesday that Pavarotti wouldn't be performing that night, but then told The Post at 5:50 p.m. he was feeling better and would probably perform. Only 40 minutes later, the famed performer was again a phantom of the opera.