Not just for opera fans, PAVAROTTI is Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard’s thrilling, exuberant documentary about the thrilling super-talented and charismatic opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti. Considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest tenor ever (“King of the High C’s), Pavarotti lived a life almost as dramatic as anything from the German or Italian repertoire (well, maybe not Wagner's). He achieved the fame of Caruso and was a man of many appetites and storied generosity. This lavish CBS Films release is bait for audiences susceptible to spectacle and for superheroes who are special without effects.
The doc, a celebration of a thrilling talent and thrilling life lived, briefly tracks Pavarotti's humble beginnings in Modena, Italy where his father was a baker and through the WW2 years when his happy childhood turned dark. Post-war, his talent was early recognized and fueled his inexorable rise in opera and hitting a rising arc with his stunning 1961 debut in "La bohème". Fame quickly followed as did lovers, wives, managers (the legendary and brash Herbert Breslin), children (three daughters), acclaimed performances (the Three Tenors debut at Rome's Caracalla Baths) and world tours. Music, he readily confessed, was his first love but it was that and his lust for life, irresistible warmth and charm that attracted many millions of fans, his famous collaborators (Zubin Mehta, Joan Sutherland, José Carreras, Plácio Domingo, et al.) or, like groupies, the fellow celebrities who gravitated toward him (Princess Diana, Bono, Elton John, et al.). As in operas both on and off stage, big lives are not lived without big problems and Pavarotti had his (divorce from a loving wife after a decades long marriage, a seriously ill daughter, the onset of cancer). But like a long-held aria note, it's Pavarotti's extraordinary voice and personality that linger.
An insightful examination of celebrity (the what-it-takes), including the roles that talent, drive, passion, luck, attitude, and timing play. And, yes, big broad smiles and enthusiasm help except when inevitable landmines make their entrance.
The doc also functions as a travelogue as it follows Pavarotti's colorful career path through many chapters, decades and international locales to major opera and performance venues, ceremonies, galas, getaways, etc.
Highlights include many Pavarotti performances, tours, chart-topping albums, TV appearances, a Juilliard Master class, some peeks at mistresses and much home movie footage befitting a star who clearly also adored cameras.
The doc doesn't shy away from the tragic chapters, including a divorce from a loving wife after many decades of marriage, a seriously ill daughter, the onset of cancer.
Yes, some critics complained the doc dwells too heavily on Pavarotti's glittery moments but his life was an explosion of glitter and successes. And don't viewers these troubled days -- with so much caca hitting Madame Butterfly's fan -- deserve the kind of relief this doc provides?