Pavarotti (2019)

Movie title: Pavarotti

Director(s): Ron Howard

Actor(s): Luciano Pavarotti

Genre: Biography, Documentary, Music

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Director Ron Howard follows up his impressive Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week with Pavarotti, another close-up look at a giant in the music industry. This time it’s Luciano Pavarotti, who, having established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century, he was given the honorary title “the king of the high C’s.” While there’s no question Pavarotti was a rare talent, unfortunately, this documentary doesn’t feel like a balanced look at his life, but rather a promotional video put out by his fan club.

Ron Howard has gathered an impressive list of interviewees including co-tenors José Carreras, and Plácido Domingo, his first wife Adua Veroni, second wife Nicoletta Mantovani, assistant, student and former lover Madelyn Renee and even U2’s Bono. All sing his praises, glossing over any negativity. While we do get lots of footage of Pavarotti in concert at various venues around the world throughout his forty-year career, Howard doesn’t dig to to deeply to find out what really made operas biggest star since Enrico Caruso, tick.

Oddly enough, one of the film’s most quietly revealing moments comes from footage filmed in 1995. Visiting an opera house in the Amazon jungle with his entourage. The place is locked up, but they find someone to let them in. Legend has it that Caruso had performed there 100 years before.  Pavarotti takes the stage, pauses thoughtfully and then belts out an aria. I wondered, was he paying homage to Caruso? Adding to his own legend? Both?

Talk of Pavarotti’s early childhood during is interesting, but brief. Given all these holes, it would be easy to just recommend that viewers skip Pavarotti altogether. Except for one thing, the man was so exuberant! He will make you smile. If like me, you’re a fan of his talents (Nessun Dorma, anyone?), wait for him to start singing and forget everything else. Ron Howard may not have brought us the definitive documentary on Luciano Pavarotti’s life, but we do get snippets of some of his greatest concert performances.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Lionsgate has provided a strong transfer here. Given the use of mixed media–newer interviews were shot digitally and Pavarotti’s home movies were shot with a video camera–quality varies greatly. Nonetheless, it’s been edited well to minimize the differences with the older footage.

The 7.1 Dolby True HD soundtrack does a wonderful job spreading Pavarotti’s booming voice throughout the soundfield in the various clips of his performances. His voice is never drowned out by the accompanying orchestra. The voices of various interviewees are clear and concise throughout.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Friends of Pavarotti Featurette
  • The Entertainer Featurette
  • Ron Howard on Pavarotti Featurette