CAROUSEL REVIEWS

PAVAROTTI Pays Tribute To The Generous, Charming Icon Of Italian Opera

28 August 2019

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PAVAROTTI Pays Tribute To The Generous, Charming Icon Of Italian Opera

Pavarotti chronicles the life and times of prominent Italian operatic tenor, Luciano Pavarotti.

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Luciano Pavarotti, Nicoletta Mantovani, Bono

Year: 2019

Country: United States, United Kingdom

Language: English, Italian

Runtime: 114 mins


Let’s get this out there first: I don’t know a thing about Italian opera. And my first thought upon seeing Luciano Pavarotti’s face on the big screen? It was that he looked remarkably like Hugh Jackman (especially when he smiles!). 

Despite my relative ignorance though, this documentary isn’t structured in a way that would outcast the newcomers; in fact, I felt invited into the world of opera — prestigious and elitist though it may seem to be — through the film’s chronological presentation of Pavarotti’s life. 

The operatic world slowly unfolds through its iconic music, mostly voiced by Pavarotti’s wonderful tenor, while interview clips of his various companions and associates explain the beauty of his voice and why it had made such splashes in the industry. These interview clips also touch on the premise of songwriting in the opera (such as how the lyrics are first written before the melody is crafted to evoke the specific sensation befitting a particular word), and also little details on how to structure and present the voice on stage. These simple introductions work to gently ease the average cinema-goer into what otherwise might have been a terrifyingly vast, unknown world. 

Those introductions aside, the film doesn’t drag itself down with the detailed intricacies of Italian opera. While that may be appreciated by the layman, it might be a little bit of a miss with those on the inside as it only glosses over the complexity and nuance of the art-form. Personally, I did enjoy the little bits of information about opera music that the film included, and admittedly had the film delved deeper into its nitty gritty, I might have found myself feeling excluded and confused.

Instead, Pavarotti chooses to hone its focus on its titular character’s amazing career and life. Luciano Pavarotti is a big man with a large personality, and the documentary manages to capture his easy charm, generosity, and positive energy through a resourceful use of old footage, photographs, and interviews. It doesn’t simply track his life through boring background commentary. On the contrary, there’s humour and genuine joy in his interactions with people from all walks of life — which amusingly includes his attempts to school an aspiring opera singer in China during one of his excursions there. 

These relationships and interactions, fun and cheerful and nearly child-like in their innocence, bring together a portrait of a man that is made all the more dimensional and multi-faceted through these relatable, realistic engagements. His personality is obviously charismatic and attractive, and it shines through even beyond the screen — which makes it easier for us, as audience members, to understand him as a person, rather than merely as an iconic singer.

Luciano Pavarotti is known for bringing the opera to the masses, and likewise, this documentary simply presents a story that would very much appeal to public sensibilities. While there seems to be certain gaps in storytelling — namely the relative lack of controversies and drama that would complicate even the most ordinary man’s life, and the limited portrayal of opera as an art-form — the film manages what it had set out to do: to present Pavarotti as he is, as a simple man with an enormous gift, no fuss necessary.

Pavarotti is out in cinemas now. Meanwhile, catch the trailer here:

somehow both a dreamer and a realist at once; more articulate in the written word
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