Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July)



Pavarotti is a new documentary, getting a release in cinemas, from Oscar-winning director Ron Howard of all people. It opens with the first of many grainy images of the legendary Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, travelling into the heart of the Amazon jungle to the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus in order to celebrate the fact that – another great singer of a previous generation – Enrico Caruso once sang on its stage. The opera house is initially closed but opens for Pavarotti to sing where Caruso did, and it clearly means a lot to him. We hear a few moments of Pavarotti’s voice as he sings out into the virtually empty auditorium and I fear that maybe, sadly, this film’s ultimate fate.

From then on there is a succession of ‘talking heads’ – family, friends, agents, impresarios, colleagues – some who knew Pavarotti better than others. While the sound of the tenor’s unique voice has been deep cleansed, the footage we see of him rarely rises above the quality of home videos, which for the most part it actually is. Truthfully there is too much talk and we are not allowed to hear Pavarotti sing enough, what we get is basically intermittent snatches of his famous roles, arias and songs.

Set up as the film’s villain was Pavarotti’s New York agent, Herbert Breslin, who took him on in 1967. Through him he performed his first recitals, first arena concerts and first live opera broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera. Breslin was shown as keen to make as much money as possible for himself, as well as, with any luck his client. Equally money grabbing (apparently) was the Hungarian impresario, Tibor Rudas, who oversaw the worldwide triumph of The Three Tenors franchise that began at the 1990 World Cup. From then on, these large-scale concerts became Pavarotti’s priority and required much less effort from him than full opera performances and there were many cancellations. From 1992 he began hosting the annual Pavarotti & Friends charity concerts and it is suggested that he realised how privileged he was to have such a successful career and became keen to give something back to those less fortunate than himself.

Pavarotti comes over as something of a ‘big kid’ who never gets the chance to grow up (and what other superstar does that remind you of?). His essential goodness and charm radiate from the screen whilst we can never lose sight of some deep-seated loneliness and insecurity because his life was totally in thrall to his voice. Before every opera performance he would tell all and sundry ‘I go to die’. It is therefore no surprise he was happiest with one-off shows in vast auditoriums.

His private life was chaotic, and this also could not have helped his peace of mind. There were a succession of personal assistants and other girlfriends, and all the time he was still married to the long-suffering Adua. They finally divorced in 2002 and soon he was able to marry his mistress, Nicoletta Mantovani – 34 years his junior – who gave him another daughter (his fourth in total) and seems to have brought some contentment to his final years. We hear from his three older daughters, but it is Adua who gets the best line in Pavarotti: ‘He got used to having everything. If he asked for chicken’s milk, they would have probably milked a chicken.’

It would have been interesting to hear from those who know why he was able to sing the way he did and why there has been no other tenor – before or since – who could match his radiant sound. Most of us didn’t need Pavarotti to remind us he was a man of gargantuan appetites for all aspects of life and particularly food. However, he does seem to have been blessed with good singers’ genes and his sheer size appears to have allowed him the lung capacity and breath control that underpinned a phenomenal technique. I would have liked to have heard much more about this rather than some of the other HELLO! magazine stuff. At some stage Luciano Pavarotti’s life and career is due a reappraisal but 12 years on from his early death at 71 is a bit of strange time for it and this documentary doesn’t really plumb any great depths. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to hear that glorious voice – and see that beaming smile on Pavarotti’s face – one more time as it brought back so many memories of seeing him live in his prime.

Jim Pritchard


From the team behind the worldwide success The Beatles: Eight Days a Week comes two-time Academy Award® winning director Ron Howard‘s documentary Pavarotti celebrating the life of the beloved opera star Luciano Pavarotti, who sold over 100 million records in his lifetime and was dubbed ‘The People’s Tenor’.

The 1990 World Cup in Italy was the moment opera left the elite and hit the masses. Opera star Pavarotti joined fellow tenors Plácido Domingo and José Carreras onstage in Rome watched by 1.4 billion worldwide. Their powerful rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ lives on as one of the most popular and famous pieces of music the world has ever heard, and Pavarotti realised his long-held dream of bringing opera into the mainstream. Ron Howard takes an intimate approach in telling Pavarotti’s story, going beyond the iconic public figure to reveal the man himself.

Thanks to a partnership with Decca Records and unique access to the Pavarotti family archives, home videos, behind the scenes and extensive live music footage, we see Pavarotti’s personal story emerge: from his humble beginnings in Northern Italy through to global superstardom. We travel the world with Pavarotti. We get to know the great tenor as a husband and a father, a committed philanthropist, as well as a fragile artist who had a complex relationship with his own unique talents and unprecedented success.

Pavarotti will include the latest Dolby Atmos audio technology, allowing theatrical audiences to experience the late Pavarotti’s extraordinary voice once more in a unique and spine-tingling way.

This live event will also include exclusive content remixed in Dolby Atmos which will not be included in the main theatrical release.



2 thoughts on “Ron Howard’s <i>Pavarotti</i> in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July)”

  1. I knew Luciano Pavarotti personally since I went to see his debut at the Met in 1968. I knew about all his ‘secretaries’. The first one I met had a doctorate degree in science. She gave up her career as a respected scientist to be with him. She was very bright and a great help to him. Their relationship came to a sad end. He used to refer to her as ‘the hunchback’ when she was not around. I loved his voice but was able to witness his dark side. I don’t understand why Madelyn Renée was given such an important role in this movie; even more than his widow, Nicoletta Mantovani. I couldn’t believe he went so far as to replace Joan Sutherland with her in Madison Square Garden, especially since it wasn’t a last minute cancellation. In New York they could have found someone near the fame of Ms. Sutherland. But no, he chose his then girlfriend. Even the NYT’s review implied that something did not jibe when she was chosen to sing with him after Joan Sutherland’s cancellation (see part of the review at the end of my comment). I stopped going to his concerts and Met performances because he offended me during a phone call he made to me one night, asking me to go to his hotel room at the Navarro in Central Park South (I was an innocent 20-year-old at the time and this was way before the MeToo movement). I hung up the phone and never saw him again in person. I saw the movie last week and feel that there were many people that were not interviewed and would have added much to the movie. For example, one person that comes to mind is Richard Bonynge. He has a very interesting interview where he speaks about how he and his wife, Joan Sutherland met him, how he hired him for the Sutherland-Williamson Opera Company and how Pavarotti did not read music, did not want to sing in French (even though his rendition of the ‘Fille du régiment’ brought him fame with the 9 high Cs, and other goodies that would give a more rounded character. Here is the interview which I find quite interesting:

    Here is the review of Madelyn Renée’s performance with Luciano Pavarotti at Madison Square Garden dated September 18, 1986: ‘Dame Joan Sutherland had been scheduled to sing with Mr. Pavarotti, but bowed out a little over a week ago because of an ear infection. The soprano Madelyn Renée, who sang in her stead, is a promising but unseasoned artist. She has a charming stage manner and a voice of darkish hue and moderate size and strength, but she is not ready for this sort of exposure, and such premature display does her no good service. Can Miss Renée really have been the most qualified soprano willing and available to sing with Mr. Pavarotti on a week’s notice? The mind boggles.’
    [edited comment]


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