REVIEWED BY JIM PRITCHARD
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.
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.
EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW WITH SATELLITE Q&A ON 13 JULY FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY AND IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE ON 15 JULY. CHECK YOUR LOCAL CINEMA LISTINGS.
CLICK HERE FOR THE PAVAROTTI TRAILER.