One of the great joys in my life is music. I’ve studied vocal singing and performance in college and one of the names that resonate within the opera world is Pavarotti. Whether you are a student of music or just love to listen, there are very few people who have not heard the name of the legendary Luciano Pavarotti. I was incredibly honored to have gotten to attend a screening of a documentary presenting the life of the singer. I found the documentary well balanced, presenting Luciano Pavarotti’s life in a joyful celebration, entertaining and accessible, even to those not as familiar with opera, but also providing heavenly moments of Pavarotti performing, his singing sublime.
Directed and produced by Ron Howard, written by Mark Monroe, Pavarotti the film explores the life of Luciano Pavarotti, the man who brought music to the people. It showcases interviews with the legend, with the people around him, both those in his family as well as those he worked with and it highlights his music and his voice. The writers bring us the story of Pavarotti’s life, from his youth with his family in Modena to his study of music and decision to pursue it. It continues his path toward fame and what happens once he reached those heights within opera but also delves into his family and his lows within his career and his personal life.
One of the best aspects of a documentary is how it can bring a fresh perspective to the history of a person. Documentaries can at times be dry but the creative team behind Pavarotti have avoided that dilemma. Instead, by focusing on Pavarotti’s own interviews, strung together with photographs of him as a young child and man as well as commentary from those who knew him best, it has a mass appeal much like Pavarotti himself. The film is well balanced between the story of his life and also providing an entertaining look at Pavarotti. Much of that entertainment is the charisma of Pavarotti, his sense of humor, his ability to connect with people, and his talent.
The film begins with a clip of performance in Brazil, at a theater where Enrico Caruso sang before him, both having reached similar heights in their careers. It shifts to Pavarotti speaking about his life, what people will remember him for, his singing and as a man. While we can’t know everything that he believed, it was clear that he was a magnetic personality, a man who devoted his life to music, to singing, and to opera. Within the history of his life, as it is shown to us, we aren’t just shown the successes but also Pavarotti’s lows. It shifts from his talent as a singer, audio of his debut in 1961, to his marriage to Adua Pavarotti and his three daughters but also does not neglect to mention his infidelities and his divorce from his wife to marry Nicoletta Mantovani. It speaks of those who criticized him but also his response, his ability to rise above the criticism and be true to himself. He may not have been perfect but what the film succeeds in presenting is his brilliant talent, his generosity of spirit, this grand soul who late in a life committed himself and his music to charity. While he may have regretted not being a better father or man, he truly was one of a kind and the film does a fantastic job of depicting him in a celebratory light.
Another aspect that was appreciated was the explanation of the music and his performances. Not only can the viewer see how much he loved performing but you can see his expressiveness, his ability to emote through the notes of the music. The film does an excellent job of explaining how a tenor sings, how constructed a performance it is and illustrating the amount of training it takes to perform at the level of the Pavarotti or Placido Domingo or Jose Carreras. When he speaks of how to perform, as a former student of music, those words resonated with me but it also helps the layman better understand the talent of the man when he performed, the skill it took to reach the level within his career. It makes the film extremely accessible to those who would not normally love opera even as Pavarotti himself appealed to the masses when he sang in his concerts.
It is truly a beautiful presentation of a joyful soul who brought heavenly music to those around him. Luciano Pavarotti was generous and talented. The film does not flinch from his flaws but balances those with his triumphs, including his charity work with Pavarotti and Friends, which his foundation continues to present day even after his death. I learned a great deal about him as a man and more about him as a performer. His ability to emote and transfix the audience with his voice is impossible to describe. All I can say is that if you love opera, I highly recommend this film. The music is heavenly, the man is a legend and the world lost an indescribable grand soul when he died. Even if you don’t like opera, the music will leave an impression of beauty and teach you about the world of opera. My only regret, I never had the opportunity to hear Luciano Pavarotti sing live. But through this film, audiences can continue to delight in his talent and sublime voice.
Rating: 5 out of 5 operas