The music and theatre community was in shock yesterday after hearing of the unexpected death of singer and actor Mario Ellul.

Mr Ellul died suddenly late on Saturday evening during a concert to mark the third anniversary of the Casino di Venezia.

Pawlu Testa, who was organising the concert, told The Times that Mr Ellul had just sang three songs from the musical Notre Dame De Paris, which were his favourites, when the 40-year-old collapsed.

"He came down from the stage and we were talking, when all of a sudden he said he was feeling unwell, and just fell to the ground," Mr Testa said.

Although there were three paramedics, who tried to resuscitate him, the artist died at the casino and was certified dead by his own doctor, who happened to be attending the concert.

Both Mr Ellul's wife Grace and young son Daniel were at the casino when he died.

Apart from his career as a singer and actor, Mr Ellul has appeared on television on various occasions.

He was working on an educational programme on waste management targeting children entitled Skart Raiders. Mr Ellul was directing the programme, which is produced by WasteServ Malta Limited.

"He was a brilliant person, very creative, and extremely good with children," WasteServ communications coordinator Daniela Vella said.

Ms Vella said the two children presenting the programme - Jessica Ellul and Andrè George Agius - were very close to him, and added that they would obviously feel his loss.

In 2000 Mr Ellul lent his voice to the plant in Masquerade's Little Shop of Horrors, and his voice is synonymous with the plant's buzz word "feed me".

Masquerade artistic director Anthony Bezzina, who had directed the play, said that apart from having "an amazing voice", Mr Ellul was also "a real gentleman", who got on extremely well with children.

"He was a true professional with a very special voice," he said.

Pierre Cachia worked with Mr Ellul in television productions and the two joined forces as executive producers in the International Festival for Maltese Song 2000 and the Malta Song for Europe 2001. The two gave birth to the trend of starting the festival with a medley sung by all the participants.

Mr Cachia said he had known Mr Ellul for around five years, and added he was a person who always "put his soul and mind in the work he was doing". He said Mr Ellul used to phone him several times asking for help, and described him as "a great friend who is always coming up with original ideas".

Mr Ellul was also part of the Voices team and a member of the Maltasong board.

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