DUBAI: Luciano Pavarotti was more than the world’s most famous opera singer — he was a global pop-culture icon. While most people would be hard pressed to name an opera singer performing in 2019, Pavarotti brought opera to the world like no one else in the 20th century.
The Italian tenor sold over 100 million records, and performed with stars including Queen, Elton John and the Spice Girls, often for the benefit of refugees and the Red Cross. His group the Three Tenors sang at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and he opened the 2006 Winter Olympics in what would become his final performance. Now, 12 years after his death, Pavarotti is still breaking new ground — “Pavarotti,” a documentary about his life directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ron Howard, is set to be the first major documentary released in theaters across Saudi Arabia when it opens on July 4.
Howard told Arab News that the key to the documentary is the extent to which Pavarotti’s life was reflected in the music he performed.
“I saw a cut where (Pavarotti sings from the opera) ‘Pagliacci’ — the sad clown who has to perform — linked with Luciano’s explanation of the character and the way it related to his life. That performance intercut with that time in his life was powerful. I recognized at that moment that if we chose performances that aligned age-wise with particular periods in his life, in a way we could make an opera about Pavarotti. That was really a creative lightbulb,” says Howard.
Pavarotti’s public and private lives had many highs and lows, from the joy of his friendship with Princess Diana of Wales to the pain of his romantic life becoming tabloid fodder. To capture that scope, Howard and his team conducted more than 50 interviews with his family, friends, lovers and collaborators. What surprised Howard was how universally the man was loved by everyone who knew him, despite his failures.
“Even with the family — though it was painful and emotional to go through some of the disappointment and heartbreak of their relationships — it kept coming back to how much joy and love there was and how much respect they had for him and his spirit,” says Howard. “Whether the people we interviewed had personal or professional relationships with him, the scales tilted tremendously to the positive in terms of their sense of what he meant to others and to them.”