I went to see the docu-movie Pavarotti yesterday. The movie is a Ron Howard production, which means it was exquisite.
This movie depicts the singer from his birth into poverty in 1935 to his death in 2007. But what fills this movie, in both background and foreground, from beginning to end, is Pavarotti’s incredible voice – both his singing voice and his speaking voice which is taken from interviews he gave throughout his career. Scenes in the movie highlight his performances from his first role in 1963 as Rodolfo in La boheme (the bohemian), to his 1972 appearance at the Metropolitan Ópera House in New York City (where he stunned the audience with “his nine high C’s”), through his many concerts and benefits, and to his last role in Puccini’s Tosca.
In the late 1980’s when the Spanish tenor Jose Carreras was stricken with leukemia, Pavarotti called him and told him to “hurry up and get well” because he needed the competition. The result of that call was the masterful and infamous concert known as The Three Tenors performed during the World Cup Finals in 1990. (I remember seeing that concert on PBS in the early 1990’s, recording it on one of those old VHS tapes, and playing it again and again so that when, during the movie, I heard the first few bars of O Sole Mio, chills went through my entire body.)
In addition to Pavarotti’s interviews the movie is filled with interviews from his colleagues, managers, friends and family, the most poignant of which is the one with U2’s Bono who teaches us more about Pavarotti than anyone else, informing us that Pavarotti didn’t just sing his music, he “lived” it. Indeed, after a relationship he was in ends, the movie shows Pavarotti in his role in Pagliacci as Canio, the clown who had to go on performing and laughing even though his heart was breaking.
I enjoyed this movie. By the end of it, I felt as though I knew Pavarotti, not as Pavarotti, but as “Luciano” - and as a friend.