When I was a college student, I used to take advantage of the student discount for the Saturday afternoon performances at The Metropolitan Opera and there was a time I was really into it – making sure I understand everything about the art, and the singing. I was already a big musical theater fan by then, and it fascinated me how there are similarities between the two arts, but in a lot of ways they are very very different. My heart will also be for Broadway, but there is a part of it that’s for Lincoln Center. I veered towards more the sopranos, but of all the tenors, Luciano Pavarotti was my favorite. I thought he was always larger than life in his performances, and yes that voice – opera is mostly about the technical, but Pavarotti provided heart and soul in what he sang – you felt the passion there.
You feel that passion as well in Ron Howard’s documentary ‘Pavarotti.’ Howard definitely loves his subject, and you can feel it. He builds Pavarotti the lovable figure that he is, and captures vividly that mega watt smile that lit the stages when he was performing. The great thing about opera is a lot of these performances get recorded, so we see all the archival footage of when he performed his classic roles. When we see him hit that high C, we see the visuals that go with it, and it enhances the experience more. Howard starts from Luciano as a kid, all the way to his peak of stardom in the 80s, when he reached superstar status. We learn about the man from interviews from his family and lovers – there’s a tender story when one of his daughters shouts ‘Papa’ after seeing her father die on stage. Even as he moves from one lover to another, Howard frames it as almost adorable. It’s sometimes a bit much – sure he did a lot of philanthropic work towards the end, but Howard really piles it on. But in the end, I didn’t care. This film celebrates a lot of what he did well – the music he left us – and I couldn’t help but weep as the film is closed by him singing his signature ‘Nessun Dorma.’ I am blessed to have lived in a world where that existed.