Director Ron Howard’s ode to Luciano Pavarotti is a breathtaking documentary, PAVAROTTI, showcasing the tenor’s many achievements throughout his storied career. Born in Modena, Italy in 1935, he and his family survived World War II, but some of the horrors he witnessed stayed with him and shaped his desire to continually help people, especially children.
Pavarotti was a schoolteacher who sang in his church choir with his father, who, according to Luciano, had a better voice than he. His mother never agreed with that assessment and pushed her son to sing (it’s always the mother/grandmother) professionally. And landing the role of Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Boheme” in a regional opera house was the beginning of his illustrious rise to the pinnacle of the opera world.
He married Adua Veroni in 1961 and quickly had three daughters. But, as his career took off, he was away from home a great deal. He would later in his life speak of this as one of his great regrets. Meeting Joan Sutherland and touring with her greatly helped him to become more successful. He credits her with teaching him the correct breathing technique that changed his singing.
Pavarotti had an amazing presence. People flocked to him and adored him, especially women. He had two major affairs, the second one with Nicoletta Mantovani, 34 years his junior, resulting in marriage and a fourth daughter, Alice. Though his daughters, Lorenza, Cristina and Giuliana, were at times estranged from him, they reconciled with him prior to his death at his home in Modena in 2007.
Howard does a remarkable job detailing his ascent to stardom. He and his rendition of the aria “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” helped him achieve pop status. His “Three Tenors” concerts with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras became worldwide hits. And he coerced Bono and U2 to write a song for him entitled “Miss Sarajevo” for a concert to raise money for the children of war-torn Bosnia.
Pavarotti was also a great friend and a great humanitarian. His annual concert, “Pavarotti & Friends”, held in Modena, included well-known artists from all genres of the musical industry. He raised money and held concerts all over the world, including for Princess Diana in her efforts to eliminate land mines. He had an enormous life and a huge appetite for living. Howard’s fabulous biopic does all of it justice.
Opinion: See It Now!
When he was 12 years old, Luciano Pavarotti was in a coma for two weeks with tetanus. Of course, he survived, but the world almost lost what would be its greatest opera talent. Pavarotti, meanwhile, would appreciate many of the things we take for
granted –-- the sun, the sky, the trees. And with his fame and wealth, this giant of a man became an even bigger humanitarian.
There is so much to learn about this world-renowned tenor from director Ron Howard’s splendid documentary PAVAROTTI. And you do not have to be a fan of Pavarotti or opera in general to appreciate this film.
Here’s one example: in 1990, the three greatest tenors known to man at the time put on a memorable concert in Rome that was globally televised. I remember watching it simply because it was an event that was thoroughly marketed. But I was not particularly moved.
In PAVAROTTI, Howard devotes about 10 minutes to this experience that featured Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Pavarotti. The fact that Howard chose to cover this towards the end of his movie is significant because by then we feel like we know Pavarotti --- his sense of humor, his kindness and, of course, his immense voice. I got chills watching this tape.
Married twice, Pavarotti had three great loves in his life and we meet them all. His first marriage to Adua Veroni produced three beautiful daughters, all of whom are interviewed. He had a long affair with soprano Madelyn Renee Monti, then later married Nicoletta Mantovani, 34 years his junior, with whom he had twins, but only the girl survived childbirth. Among the other interviewees are celebrities with whom Pavarotti developed close friendships, including Princess Diana and Bono.
Harvey Goldstein, a British rock-and-roll concert organizer based in New York City, was instrumental in marketing Pavarotti as a pop icon. When Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert commitment in London, Goldstein scrambled to salvage the show, not to mention save himself hundreds of thousands of dollars. He ended up booking Pavarotti, which resulted in multiple sold-out shows.
PAVAROTTI offers a lot to digest, but it’s all fascinating. We learn when/why the tenor first started using his trademark white hankie. It was at a concert where he was accompanied by a solo pianist --- no costume, no make-up to hide behind --- only himself on stage, and he was nervous. So it was suggested that he hold a handkerchief.
Pavarotti loved kids and he became a huge benefactor to the children of Bosnia affected by the war there. His foundations today still enhance the lives of many. He was a long-time friend and colleague of Joan Sutherland, considered one of the greatest sopranos of all time. It was through Sutherland that Pavarotti learned the finer techniques of breathing when singing.
Overall Pavarotti sold more than 100 million records and performed for more than 10 million people. He died of pancreatic cancer in September 2007 at the age of 71. Ron Howard’s production of PAVAROTTI is a perfect a tribute to the man who was larger than life.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!