Oct 23, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Luciano Pavarotti had a magnificent, a glorious voice but that is not what made him great. He had a flamboyant charm and was larger than life, an actor who could transmute poignancy on stage with his arias conveying vitality, electricity. He took the art form out of the realm of the elites and the snobs and placed it into the arms of the masses where it most justifiably belongs because that is where it was born.
Director, Ron Howard who is little Opie of The Andy Griffith Show all grown up and with an Academy Award win under his belt brings us a masterful portrait of a great artist. He weaves Pavarotti's story together with clips from his performances. It is likely that there will not be a performance for a millennial that will equal that of the three tenors in concert: Pavarotti, Jose Carrerras and Placido Domingo.
To the chagrin of some purists the beloved singer consorted with "pop" stars. Howard has said that if he were still alive today Pavarotti would be collaborating with Jay-Z. He was everyone’s friend, Princess Diana, Bono, Nelson Mandela. It is interesting that both his wives as well as a mistress consented to be interviewed for this piece. All attempt to convey the sense of joy he emanated. He is especially warm when interacting with his daughters.
Born in the Italian village of Modena, his father was a baker and an amateur tenor. Pavarotti was working as an elementary school teacher when he was offered the part of Rodolfo in La Boheme filling in for the lead. Encouraged by his mother he continued to pursue his dreams and became an international superstar.
Eventually he parlayed that prodigious popularity into helping others and toward the end of his career was involved in many charitable activities. Although he was modest and unassuming, he would acknowledge that his voice was a "gift from God".
Howard also has a gift for making a documentary that is well-crafted and illuminates the singer's career. He knows how to splice his interviews and film clips in a sequence that keeps the narrative perking. He does not shy away from mentioning the subject's weaknesses. Maybe too quickly we forgive him his indiscretions because of his teddy bear persona and his consummate artistry.
One need not be an opera buff to enjoy this film. When the tenor hits a series of high "C's" in the opera La Fille du Regiment, you will have chills. Pavarotti has achieved his immortality on vinyl, his voice forever imprinted on CD's and now with this just released DVD.
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