New 'Pavarotti' documentary by Ron Howard gives an intimate look into the life of the legendary singer

Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti performs onstage at the Poplar Creek Music Theater. (Getty Images)
Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti performs onstage at the Poplar Creek Music Theater. (Getty Images)

Cape Town – Pavarotti, a tribute documentary film about the legendary singer will be released in South African cinemas nationwide on 27 September 2019.

The award-winning filmmaking team behind the hit documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years turns to another musical phenomenon with Pavarotti, an in-depth, no holds barred look at the life, career and lasting legacy of the musical icon.

Dubbed "The People's Tenor," Luciano Pavarotti was the rare combination of personality, genius and celebrity and he used his prodigious gifts to spread the gospel of opera as entertainment – and something to be enjoyed by all music lovers.

Through the sheer force of his talent, Pavarotti commanded the great stages of the world, and captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. Featuring rare interviews with his family and colleagues, never-before-seen footage, and state of the art Dolby Atmos sound, this look at a remarkable man and musical giant is directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard.

He had one of the most epic voices and expressive hearts in human history, but in Ron Howard’s documentary, the remarkable Luciano Pavarotti is seen as he’s never been seen before: in a ravishingly intimate close-up that delves behind the glory of his music and the heat of his charisma to uncover his private human struggles, humour and hopes.  Echoing the universal themes that have kept opera relevant in the 21st Century—love, passion, joy, family, loss, risk, beauty—the film weaves a story of a man discovering, wrestling with and ultimately learning to harness the monumental enormity of his gifts. 

The golden-hued voice of Pavarotti speaks for itself. But Howard sets out here to uncover the man, finding an unceasingly fascinating human being formed from contrasts—mixing child-like lightness with a deep soul, a strong loyalty to his peasant upbringing and that enigmatic X-factor that drives some to the skirt the edges of human possibility. 

Going beyond performances, Howard and his team combed the archives for dozens of interviews Pavarotti did for television talk shows and news magazines looking for highlights.  Then, he and his team conducted a comprehensive 53 new interviews in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, London, Modena and Verona from April 2017 to June 2018.

 This series of conversations brought in the perspectives not only of wives, family members, students and fellow performers from both opera and rock, but also the managers, promoters and marketeers who helped to etch the unusual trajectory of his career and take opera to places it had never gone before.

Each one was a revelation, opening up new avenues into Pavarotti’s most hidden doubts, trials and desire to reconcile his outsized ambitions with ordinary love and life. 


"I found the family’s interviews especially remarkable," says Howard. "They’re emotional interviews that were not easy for them to do, but I am grateful because I think they convey so much of the humanity of his story. That’s what makes this something more than just a look at what a great performer he was.  They tell the story of a vast journey of highs and lows that they all undertook together."

Luciano Pavarotti as he poses, at his home, with h

Then came the most astonishing discoveries of the film: highly personal footage of Pavarotti that had never seen the light of day before. This footage from home movies preserved by family and friends at times took the filmmakers’ breath away with its unvarnished glimpses at the man behind the curtain. Much of the rare footage came directly from the personal collection of Nicoletta Mantovani, Pavarotti’s wife at his death, the mother of their daughter Alice and head of the Pavarotti Museum in Modena.

Mantovani offered her generous help to the production right from the beginning.  "I felt it was important to tell his story to the world because Luciano was one of the best artists ever, but he also had a great heart. I thought it was important to share that," says Mantovani. 

Luciano Pavarotti and his wife Nicoletta Mantovani

"Pavarotti grew up in a culture where opera was popular entertainment and it spoke to everyone,” explains director and film maker Howard. "He always wanted to return opera to those roots in the modern world. His humility is one of the most beautiful and paradoxical things about Luciano. He was extremely proud of his achievements and he understood he had this incredible power, but it was accompanied by a sense of being humbled by the music and the opportunity it gave him to reach people from every walk of life."

(Photos supplied: Fondazione Luciano Pavarotti)