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Pavarotti doco shines a soft light on the opera superstar

directed by Ron Howard

There are many snippets of famous arias in this documentary about superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who died in 2007. The footage of the maestro hitting yet another high C is a reminder of the emotive power of his voice, and it’s fascinating to witness the slimmer matinee idol of the 1960s. Elsewhere, offstage footage shows how his cuddly Italian charm helped make him the biggest opera star of many a generation.

But, as a whole, the doco feels like an endless chorus of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Family, former lovers, the other two from the Three Tenors and Bono all chime in on Pavarotti’s wondrousness and his good works. But his flaws – his affairs, his artistic decline, his reputation in his latter years for not turning up – go largely unexamined or quickly forgiven.

Macro alias: ModuleRenderer

It’s the second music doco for veteran Ron Howard, who added the enjoyable 2016 Beatles film Eight Days a Week to the annual pile of Fab Four merchandise. Pavarotti is insightful about how the singer’s managers engineered his solo stardom, taking Nessun Dorma into the world’s rock stadiums and changing the classical music business along the way, but it also feels like posthumous promotional product. It doesn’t offer much as to why his voice was unique, either. That said, hearing it in its prime is enough to drown out the endless “and so say all of us” from the chorus of talking heads.



Video: CBS Films

This article was first published in the June 22, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.