In director Ron Howard’s documentary about the life of Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, love is the thing. A red line that runs a mile wide through every part of his life, passion is the endearing currency that lies at the heart of his appeal.
Pavarotti did more than make your ears vibrate...
From following his father’s footsteps to British soprano Joan Sutherland later teaching him how to breathe, the early murmurs of a heart waiting to burst are told in Pavarotti’s own words and those he touched. Famous for a voice whose could repeatedly hit the coveted high ‘C’, Pavarotti did more than make your ears vibrate. Dubbed the ‘King of Decca’, album sales quickly followed. However, the voice is a jealous mistress. By straining for those high notes, there was always the risk that she could walk out of you in mid-performance, but Luciano never seemed to have such problems. Instead, what the peasant reborn as a king really needed was a bastard to help him carve a career. Enter his agent, Herbert Breslin.
Already the most despised man in opera, Breslin shared Pavarotti’s desire for advancement. In organising an unheard-of tour around rural America, they brought opera to the new world, culminating in his famous debut at the New York Met. Arriving later in Italy for the World Cup Finals in 1990, another concept was born. Sharing the stage with other tenors Placido Domingo and embattled José Carreras, a professional rivalry would become an endearing fraternity. With all three singing Turandot’s ‘Nessun Dorma’, the world’s oldest boy band was instantly formed. Sale records for opera were shredded and the recital-as-epochal-event was born.
However, behind the scenes, there were loves could not be contained, and in this regard, Ron Howard should be applauded. In what could have easily been a sparkling toast in Pavarotti’s talent, Howard is prepared to let the grapes of wrath sour.
Later exonerated by his mischievous humility and later commitment to charity, ‘Pavarotti’ the documentary becomes an unpresuming vessel for his greater talent. Similar to the recent ‘Amazing Grace‘, an ability that could not be contained by the stage, cannot be contained by this film. In communicating Luciano’s trusting soul, ‘Pavarotti’s optimism transcends the documentary format.
If you don’t love Pavarotti today, there’s always tomorrow. That is the endearing measure of both the man and this film.