(Release Info London schedule; July 13th, 2019, Curzon Cinemas, Second Floor, 23 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1RE, United Kingdom, 6:45pm)
The filmmaking team behind the documentary "The Beatles: Eight Days A Week" 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', 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 Ron Howard.
The movie opens with one of the most astounding, dream-like clips of all. The year is 1995 and the place is Manaus, Brazil, in the thick of 'The Amazon Jungle'. Here, in the mysteriously magnificent little opera house known as 'Teatro Amazonas', where Caruso himself once sang, Pavarotti is seen in his sweatpants, pouring forth with total abandon before a mere handful of passers-by. Shot by flautist Andrea Griminelli, who was travelling with Pavarotti at the time, the clip has never before been shared publicly. You see him trying to capture what his idol Caruso must have felt singing there. Here's this earthy, happy-go-lucky character who relished the good things in life with vivacious humility. But here also is a man battling the intricacies of massive superstardom, sky-high expectations and turbulent relationships, all underscored by Pavarotti’s growing sense of responsibility that he has to find a way to use his voice and power for something more satisfying and more lasting than mere fame. 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.
Nicoletta sort of becomes her husband’s videographerand it just so happened that this is the era when good video cameras are becoming available. She interviews him from time to time and it’s very fortunate, because Nicoletta captures him in a period when he has so much wisdom and perspective to share. And of course, he's open to talking with her in ways he would never talk to the host of a morning show. This footage is incredibly important to the film, because that’s where you really get to see his playful side, what a charmer and goof he could be. He thinks of himself as a peasant who has worked his way up to giving all that's in his soul and all that has been built into his character by life. Nicoletta gives the audience access to all of the archives that they've at 'The Pavarotti Museum'. And she also introduces us to his first family; his first wife Adua Veroni and their three daughters, Cristina, Lorenza and Giuliana Pavarotti. Having a famous father is not easy for anybody, whether they're a pop star, movie star or opera singer, and you get to see that.
Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy on October 12th, 1935, on the eve of 'WWII', the son of father who was a baker and amateur tenor. The first act of his life is going from a village teacher in Modena to becoming an unexpected success in the opera; the second act is 'The Three Tenors' era of his life when he experienced both incredible fame and self-doubts; and the final act is 'The Pavarotti And Friends Period', where he was raising money for children’s charity and expanding out into collaborations with artists of all kinds, bringing opera to new places and people, fulfilling his dream. Mesmerized by his father’s voice and that of his idol, Enrico Caruso, he sang throughout his childhood. Encouraged by his mother, who heard something unusual in her son’s timbre, Pavarotti only began to seriously study music after winning a regional singing competition. He made his stage debut as 'Rodolfo' in Puccini’s 'La Boheme' in 1961, impressing early on with his intuitiveness and natural ease. Pavarotti began recording for 'Decca' in 1964 and in a period of six creatively fertile years, he recorded some11 operas and 'The Verdi Requiem', which remain mainstays of his legacy.
Throughout the 60s, Pavarotti slowly, carefully built his reputation not only for an increasingly impeccable tone and committed performances, but for the boundless joy and zeal for life that came through in both his singing and persona. He became known by concert-goers around the world for his star-making partnership with the beloved soprano Joan Sutherland, aka 'La Stupenda' as their affection for one another imbued their performances with intense energy and romance. In the 1970s, Pavarotti found himself at the acme of his vocal powers and showmanship, transforming into a major international superstar and media darling. At a time when opera itself seemed to be declining in influence, he continued to rapidly rise, giving epic performances on world stages while charming late-night talk shows with his down-to-earth sense of humor, beaming smile and cooking skills. One night in 1973, when his life-long pre-show nerves brought on a bout of sweating, he carried a huge white handkerchief on stage, soon to be an instantly recognized, signature trademark. By the 80s, he was the highest paid singer in the history of opera.
As he entered the 90s, Pavarotti’s collaborations with 'The Three Tenors' would fill arenas and result in the bestselling album in classical music history. One of the most captivating moments in the film centers around footage of Pavarotti meeting Princess Diana in 1991. It proved to be a watershed. Not only did they become fast friends, it also seems evident he saw in her a model for how celebrity could propel good works for the world. Luciano’s relationship with Princess Diana was pivotal and as the film begins to explore the footage you can see it. He was enamored with her, but it wasn’t lust. It was a mutual admiration. She taught him in a way that there could be a tremendous sense of satisfaction from not just supporting causes but really working hard at it and devoting yourself to it. He carried that with him the rest of his life. In 1998, Pavarotti was appointed a 'UN Messenger Of Peace' and in 2001, he was awarded 'The Nansen Award from 'The UN High Commissioner For Refugee' for his unmatched fundraising and volunteer efforts. From 2001 to 2003, he hosted 'Pavarotti And Friends' in his hometown, annual benefit concerts with some of the biggest names across the spectrum of entertainment, including pop and rock.
Going beyond performances, director Ron Howard combes the archives for dozens of interviews Pavarotti did for television talk shows and news magazines looking for highlights. Then, he conducts 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 brings 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 is 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.
Who wouldn’t be drawn to a creative powerhouse who etched out his own unique place as the rock star of opera singers, a giant who bridged high art and pop culture as if such borders were illusory? Where did this tremendous artistry come from? It doesn’t only come from the remarkable voice. It has to come from the heart. That’s the only way you can create performances so true that they resonate forever. The human voice is the centerpiece of the movie. It's the greatest tool musically there's. Nothing crosses all disciplines in music and all touchpoints with human emotion like the human voice. What was it about Pavarotti’s voice that touched so many? Certainly, he had an astonishing reach. Early in his career, Pavarotti stunned operagoers by exquisitely, and seemingly easily, hitting all nine high Cs in 'Donizetti’s La Fille Du Regiment'. Most tenors transpose the note to a more mortal yet still highly challenging B-flat, but not Pavarotti. With that string of 'Cs', he made opera history and was thereafter dubbed 'The King Of High Cs'. But there was more to it than technical facility, more to it than even that crystalline ping and honeyed sweetness in his voice that critics hailed. There was also in his demeanor and tone something ineffable that elevated the spirit, a kind of inner vitality, a generosity and warmth that baked into the skin of the listener like the sun. He had an ability to do something many others were not able to do with their voices, to transcend their genre. He had that magical ability to create a universal experience for people across the world. His voice is about those universal emotions we seek in all great painting, music, food, love and compassion.
In the documentary, 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, humor 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 tale of a small-town man sent on a meteoric trip to the heights of fame, trying to figure out how to bring all his roiling emotions, nerves, dreams and love for others along for the ride. To this day, people struggle to define it. But the film 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. He's a testament to the power of living your life with passion and unabashed commitment to what you love. The film is a drama punctuated by passionate arias and highlighting the contrasts of larger-than-life spectacle with raw, everyday humanity.
Generous and egalitarian as he was, Pavarotti was as complicated and contradictory as any human. He had his share of scandals, marital troubles and prima donna moments, and some critics and opera lovers were disappointed by what they saw as his compromising the delicacy of his art to the demands of popularity. Like any person who achieves the most surreal heights of global fame. But he also came to see his fame as a tool to etch out something larger than himself. One of his most ambitious goals was to broaden the reach of his art so that more would fall in love with opera. The film rides a fine line; authentic enough for Pavarotti aficionados to cherish and welcoming enough for those who are new to the man and his music. To him, opera was the music of the people, of all people; because it's rife with all the beauty and messiness of everyday life. They’re a form of expression that can hit you on a whole other level of emotional connection. It doesn’t matter who you're, the purity of that just moves you.