Pavarotti doco shines a soft light on the opera superstar

by Russell Baillie / 22 June, 2019
RelatedArticlesModule - Pavarotti documentary review

PAVAROTTI
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.

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.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

Video: CBS Films

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

Latest

Writer Robert Macfarlane finds deeps truths in Underland
108287 2019-07-17 00:00:00Z Books

Writer Robert Macfarlane finds deeps truths in Und…

by Tony Murrow

In a new book, Robert Macfarlane heads underground to ponder mankind’s effect on the planet.

Read more
Why extra virgin olive oil is back on the menu for frying
108203 2019-07-17 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Why extra virgin olive oil is back on the menu for…

by Jennifer Bowden

For decades, the word in the kitchen has been that olive oil shouldn’t be used for frying, but new research could change that.

Read more
Abstract artist Gretchen Albrecht's true colours
108108 2019-07-16 00:00:00Z Profiles

Abstract artist Gretchen Albrecht's true colours

by Linda Herrick

Gretchen Albrecht paintings may be intangible, but they are triggered by real-life experience, she tells Linda Herrick.

Read more
That's a Bit Racist is playful, but it packs a punch
108435 2019-07-16 00:00:00Z Television

That's a Bit Racist is playful, but it packs a pun…

by Diana Wichtel

The taboo-busting doco is trying to change our default settings on race, but some people aren't stoked.

Read more
Are there too many tourists in NZ?
108444 2019-07-16 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Are there too many tourists in NZ?

by North & South

Here's what's inside North and South's August 2019 issue.

Read more
Huawei's dogged determination: Can it make a breakthrough in New Zealand?
108428 2019-07-16 00:00:00Z Tech

Huawei's dogged determination: Can it make a break…

by Peter Griffin

The tech company at the centre of a trade war between the US and China is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prove it can be trusted.

Read more
The many miracles of Aretha Franklin movie Amazing Grace
108368 2019-07-15 00:00:00Z Movies

The many miracles of Aretha Franklin movie Amazing…

by Russell Baillie

A long-lost concert movie capturing Lady Soul in her prime is heading to the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Read more
The untold history of China's one child policy
108182 2019-07-14 00:00:00Z History

The untold history of China's one child policy

by RNZ

Nanfu Wang explains the story behind her film One Child Nation, which screens at the International Film Festival this July.

Read more