Filmmaker Ron Howard describes Luciano Pavarotti as a man who lived life to its fullest. Pavarotti loved life, women, food and wine, adoring crowds and hitting high C's; he was a larger-than-life character whose personal life was as full of operatic drama as it was onstage.
Howard is clearly a fan of the maestro; and with good cause. In his prime Pavarotti was the world's most talented and celebrated tenor since Caruso. In this polished and glossy Hollywood documentary we're introduced to a gentleman grateful for his gift and who worked hard to make the most of it, who loved his family and children, and who, as he grew increasingly successful, was a true philanthropist.
Pavarotti captures its subject's career from a young age, touring Australia with Joan Sutherland, who encouraged Pavarotti to technically master his incredible voice, through to his commercially successful years as a member of The Three Tenors, and his later years cavorting with rock stars on stage.
If you're an opera purist you may find these transitions dealt with a little too lightly; and the same could be said of his private life.
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Howard should be credited for successfully enlisting Pavarotti's first wife Adua Veroni and their daughters, one of his early lovers, Madelyn Renee, and second wife Nicoletta Mantovani. Though he was a well-known philanderer, everyone is very grown up and forgiving about his extra-curricular inclinations.
However, when Pavarotti's grown daughters speak of their relationships with their father you sense there's a lot more emotion than what is being shared.
If Howard's intention was to present a version of Pavarotti's life that plays like an opera, then Pavarotti falls flat. It's just too polite and defensive of Pavarotti and his indiscretions. There's no sign of the tax evasion and lip-synching scandals; or recognition of the lasting impact he had by commercialising opera.
What Pavarotti does do, and the inclusion of home video footage helps here, is reveal a man who lived his life to the full. Undoubtedly, he was a great tenor who wooed both opera lovers and the rest of the world, and used his unique talent to raise money for many causes. It's just a shame we don't get beneath the great man's veneer.
Cast: Luciano Pavarotti, Bono
Director: Ron Howard
Running time: 112mins
Verdict: An admiring, accessible tribute that sadly lacks the operatic drama of its subject.