Review of Ron Howard’s “Pavarotti”

“Pavarotti” is an affectionate, entertaining look at an influential, beloved musical figure, the man who brought opera to the masses.

Directed by Ron Howard and produced by the same team that brought forth the Beatles documentary “Eight Days a Week,” “Pavarotti” has been faulted in some circles by not going far enough into the man’s foibles. It’s true—if you’re looking for a Luciano Pavarotti expose, warts and all, you won’t find that here, though there is mention of the scandals that resulted when he left his first wife. And the structure itself is a little slack, though the movie flirts with connecting his life to the operas.

However, you will find several revealing interviews by family and friends (including his daughters and both of his wives), some interesting glimpses of the business angle, with Pavarotti’s assorted producers and managers, and some glimpses into Pavarotti’s insecurities as a performer and a man. You also see the easy charm that made so many willing to embrace Pavarotti, even if they were lukewarm about opera itself. Most importantly, there is the music, and the film is generous with opera footage that shows the performer at his peak, wowing audiences with his passion and range (oh that high C). There are clips from various operas and assorted co-stars (including Joan Sutherland), as well as some inspired moments among the Three Tenors (including Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras). And if one didn’t already know it, Pavarotti’s charitable works are also given a fair amount of footage, as well as his attempts to musically bond with performers from other genres (Bono chief among them). “Pavarotti” is a loving tribute to a great talent and a complicated man—it’s certainly worth seeing, just don’t look for any daggers.