PAVAROTTI: The Eternal Tenor

In director Ron Howard’s new documentary Pavarotti, co-written by Cassidy Hartmann, the story of the world famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, is told. He becomes a house-hold name across the world. The film leaves the audience inspired and amazed by the star’s story. (SYJ: 5/5)


Review written by FF2Media Intern Sophia Y. Jin


From an early age, Pavarotti had been exposed to music. His father, a baker, enjoyed singing and was part of an all-male choir, the Corale Rossini. Luciano followed suit and joined the choir. He experienced his first success in singing in 1955, when Corale Rossini won first prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.This would be where Pavarotti met Adua Veroni, whom he married in 1961. With the support of his parents, Luciano Pavarotti began singing lessons with Arrigo Pola. During his studies, he also worked as an elementary school teacher. The film showed photographs of Pavarotti’s childhood and how different his life was in the beginning. 


In 1961, he made his operatic debut in Italy as Rodolfo in La Boheme. In 1963, he made his first international appearance, first in La Traviata in Yugoslavia, then again as Rodolfo in the Vienna Staatsoper. His knack for singing with such great passion created captivating performances, making the audience fall in love with his voice. This was helped by his life being full of passion and love. The documentary smoothly progresses through Pavarotti’s life, using photographs, archival footage, including clips of productions he had done, and interviews from people close to him.


In 1961, he got married to his first wife, and consequently had 3 daughters, Cristina, Giuliana, Lorenza. As his career took off, it meant he would be travelling around the world, leaving little time to spend with his family at home. On top of opera roles, he was being booked for recitals and solo concerts. However, as soon as one of his daughters became sick, he cancelled his concerts, and took her to New York City to get the best possible treatment for her. 


The biggest controversy that came out during his life was his divorce from Adua Veroni in order to marry his former secretary Nicoletta Mantovani. This changed the view of a lot of his townspeople in Modena, a Catholic crowd, about Pavarotti himself. He was a well loved character, but going against the Catholic tradition of remaining faithful to his wife and not divorcing split the opinion. The film talks about his life and his death with utmost respect and care. The world renowned opera singer is and always will be loved.


In the documentary co-written by Cassidy Hartmann Pavarotti goes on to describe the house-hold name’s life and performances. It ranges from different legal issues, to his personal life and affairs. Despite his various affairs, Luciano Pavarotti was still an amiable man, throwing big charity concerts and having a lively, uplifting spirit. He was able to befriend anyone he came across. 


Pavarotti has smooth transitions into different stages of Luciano Pavarotti’s life. It’s informative not only about his life, but also about being an operatic singer. Current singers such as Vittorio Grigolo and Angela Gheorghiu, as well as Pavarotti’s contemporaries, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. They dive into detail about the difficulties of being a tenor, and the goodheartedness of Pavarotti. All the music accentuates the themes in each chapter of his life. Pavarotti is an engaging documentary film to both musicians and non-musicians. The story of Pavarotti brings tears to the audience, and leaves people inspired. Pavarotti could bring the mysterious operatic and classical world together with the modern and popular music. He reached high notes deceptively easily, just as in the opera La Fille du Régiment where he sings nine high Cs, proves his spectacular technical ability as a tenor, but his role in Pagliacci shows his ability to act so well that it makes the audience cry. Pavarotti captured the difficulty of singing in the conversations with current singers, and the love of the world for the phenomenal tenor.

© Sophia Y. Jin (6/29/2019) FF2 Media

Does Pavarotti pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

No, the documentary is about Luciano Pavarotti, a man.

Photo credits: IMDb


Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto


As someone who knew nothing about Pavarotti going into Pavarotti, I learned a lot from this film! While my ignorance of opera has generally come from a lack of interest, the worldwide phenomenon that was Pavarotti’s career had enough drama and relevance that even I as a more casual filmgoer found it fun as well as informative. Pavarotti himself is a charismatic figure who at the same time presents something of an enigma to the audience. The quintessential image of the jovial, gourmet-loving Italian man is at the same time presented along with a lifetime of misfortunes, such as members of his family repeatedly falling ill. The “Three Tenors” member was much more than just a smiling singer.


My main critique would only be that the treatment of Pavarotti’s philandering doesn’t give a full picture of what appears to be a succession of younger women who he first mentored in the opera scene before starting love affairs with them and, eventually, dropping them for a newer young woman. His treatment of these women, especially in the context of how he used his fame to draw them in, struck me as highly suspect even from the few glossed-over details the film gave. In the era of #MeToo, I think films about famous men need to take into account what role their position played in their love lives. While Pavarotti was certainly not portrayed as a rapist, anyone familiar with the workings of patriarchy can read between the lines of the affairs documented by this film and see that there was something off about many of his relationships.


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Sophia is currently a student of classical music. She joined FF2 Media in 2018, and loves working with everyone on the team because not only does it promote women's roles in films, it also opens her up to more works done by women. Sophia is so glad that there is a space that is full of women alike in their passion to bring more attention to females who are just as capable or even more capable than men in the industry.
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