New Pavarotti documentary shows the man, the voice ... the philanderer

Luciano Pavarotti.
Luciano Pavarotti.

Director: Ron Howard
. . . . -

Director Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story, A Beautiful Mind) has put his talents to a documentary on the world’s most famous opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti.

Featuring family videos, archive footage and plenty of interviews with his wives, daughters, partners, business colleagues, opera writers and other musicians (including U2’s Bono), this almost two-hour production stitches together the picture of a man who became larger than life.

Born in the beautiful town of Modena, Italy, Pavarotti learnt about opera from his father who was an amateur tenor and baker.

After abandoning his goal to become a goalkeeper, Pavarotti started studying music at school.

He made a modest operatic debut in 1963, singing La Traviata in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. But it was his US debut with the Greater Miami Opera in February 1965 that really catapulted him to fame.

Thanks to his ability to reach “the high C” – a notoriously difficult note for tenors – and his amicable way with audiences, Pavarotti crossed over from opera singer to pop-culture phenomenon.

Credited with “bringing opera to the masses”, he was able to sell out the same arenas as the biggest rock and pop stars of that era. His Three Tenors and Pavarotti and Friends concerts put the pinnacle on his fame.

But Pavarotti was by no means perfect. During his skyrocketing career, he was still married to his wife, Adua, and had three daughters.

But the documentary reveals a romantic relationship with his assistant and operatic mentee Madalyn Renee, which the American later broke off.

Around 2001 and while still married, he started a relationship with his personal assistant Nicoletta Mantovani, 34 years his junior. He would later divorce his wife and marry Mantovani.

According to Pavarotti’s former manager, Herbert Breslin, the singer “loved music, women, food and football — in that order”.

The film does well in that it doesn’t sanitise the maestro, but it fails slightly in setting up an expectation of information that then doesn’t come.

In the beginning, it promises to show us the ways Pavarotti’s fame burdened him and what he found hard about his life in the spotlight. Unfortunately, this is never fully unpacked, only touched on, and you’re left with an unclear picture of it all.

Nevertheless, this is a robust picture of the maestro, and one fans will covet.

His performance highlights make for particularly delicious viewing, and seeing “the king of the high Cs” in full breast – belting out O Sole Mio – will not fail to make you break out in goosebumps.

Make a date to watch this.

Grethe Kemp
Trending co-editor
City Press
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