Pavarotti film review: bringing the house down again

Pavarotti.
Pavarotti.

THE challenge for supremo director Ron Howard with Pavarotti would have been to somehow get out of the way of a man who makes the phrase ‘larger than life’ seem puny.

By introducing the film himself, Howard points to this central dilemma: how to have perspective, stand back from one who literally fills every scene he’s in.

By and large (it’s almost impossible not to become paranoid about references to size when assessing Luciano Pavarotti) this documentary works by not straining under the weight of the Italian tenor’s overwhelming charisma (there, I’ve done it again, damn it).

Pavarotti was a star of the opera world decades before his recording of Nessun Dorma for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and subsequent Three Tenors concerts and recordings with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras catapulted him to the musical stratosphere.

His transition from Italian regional opera houses to international force was significantly aided by the support of Australian soprano Joan Sutherland.

This is a conventional documentary because every shift of fame and fortune is the equivalent of the movement of tectonic plates. It’s far simpler to watch the ground quake beneath the feet of the maestro as he conquers all before him. The scandals around his love life can’t quite bring Pavarotti down, even in deeply Catholic Italy.

Despite his success in bringing opera to the masses and bending musical genres to his will, the ultimate triumph of this almost two-hour film is to give so much light to the technical superiority, the soaring beauty of the voice.

It’s an indelible imprint on the consciousness of all who’ve heard it. For new and old audiences, Pavarotti yet again has managed to bring the house down.

THE ESSENTIALS

Pavarotti (M)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Luciano Pavarotti
Reviewed by: Martin Turner
Four stars
In cinemas now