Ron Howard on ‘Pavarotti’ — the first major documentary to screen in Saudi Arabia

A still from 'Pavarotti.' (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2019
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Ron Howard on ‘Pavarotti’ — the first major documentary to screen in Saudi Arabia

  • 'Pavarotti' opens in GCC cinemas on July 4
  • Howard and his team conducted more than 50 interviews with his family, friends, lovers and collaborators

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.”


Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

Elie Jr. and Christina Mourad. (Social media)
Updated 4 min 54 sec ago
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Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

  • The tourism leader said the situation was to do with Lebanese ego, but he emphasized that wedding parties held in Lebanon could be better than those staged abroad on all levels

BEIRUT: Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab has been hailed by tourism chiefs for staging his son’s lavish wedding reception on home turf.
The influential Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon saluted Saab “for holding the wedding party of his son, Elie Jr., and the Lebanese bride, Christina Mourad, in Lebanon instead of abroad, as do tens of Lebanese leaders and lords.
“Holding wedding parties abroad has deprived the tourism sector as well as other sectors in Lebanon of important revenues that can revive the national economy,” the syndicate said.
The nonprofit body that represents restaurateurs, added that the glittering event had “turned the country into a huge wedding attended by more than 3,000 guests from inside and outside Lebanon.
“People shared their joy on social media, communicating Lebanon’s image of civilization and tourism to the world. This wedding filled Lebanese hotels, restaurants and nightclubs and stirred the economic cycle for more than 10 days before and after the wedding. We salute the man who loves peace and Lebanon a thousand times.”
Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon (ATTAL), told Arab News: “The syndicate’s stance comes in response to a phenomenon that emerged a few years ago. Distinguished people have been holding lavish weddings for their children abroad, where they spend millions of dollars. This has not only been done by politicians, but also businessmen and senior employees, as if it has become a trend or an added value.”
The tourism leader said the situation was to do with Lebanese ego, but he emphasized that wedding parties held in Lebanon could be better than those staged abroad on all levels. “We have outstanding wedding planners who get employed to plan weddings abroad,” he added.
Abboud pointed out that the tourist season in Lebanon this year had so far been promising with the number of visitors from GCC countries, and especially Saudi Arabia, up on 2018 figures. He added that the 2019 draft budget approved by Parliament last week had not put “any burdens on the tourism sector.”
Chairman of the Hotel Owners Association in Lebanon, Pierre Al-Ashkar, estimated the cost of wedding parties held by Lebanese people abroad to be around $400 million, including hotel accommodation, purchases and transportation, in addition to the expenses of the wedding itself.
He said: “There is no longer a difference between politicians and businessmen who choose to hold their children’s wedding parties abroad. It is true that these weddings are no more than a few hundred, but their expenses are huge and, therefore, deprive Lebanon of this money.”
Al-Ashkar pointed out that the number of tourists choosing Lebanon this summer had risen, highlighting a significant 30 percent increase in the proportion of visitors from Europe.
“However, the number of tourists from GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia, has not been as we had wished,” he added.
“Maybe this is because these tourists, who have not been visiting Lebanon for five to seven years, now have business in other countries or investments in tourist places outside of Lebanon, especially as some countries now offer incentives to attract tourists carrying certain passports and residence permits.”