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Luciano Pavarotti

“PAVAROTTI” My rating: B+ 

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

One needn’t be an opera fan to be swept up in Ron Howard’s “Pavarotti,” a sympathetic but never sycophantic documentary about the man (1935-2007) widely regarded as the greatest tenor ever.

Sure, the film’s two hours are crammed with great music, but perhaps even more importantly, “Pavarotti” provides an indelible study of an outsized personality who, at his best, showered joy on just about everyone he encountered.

Through liberal use of archival footage and photos, Howard’s film describes Pavarotti’s rise, fueled by that incredible voice (he could  hit a high C that would raise the hair on the back of your neck).

It describes how he became a phenomenon in the U.S. giving recitals in small towns (William Jewell College in Liberty MO hosted the tenor on several occasions), how he teamed up with manager Herbert Breslin (often described as the most ruthless man in opera), who promoted his client from mere singer to world-recognized figure. (“A nice guy needs a bastard,” one talking head observes.)

Indeed, Pavarotti appears to have been a genuinely nice man, which is not to say he was perfect.

We learn that he was capable of bad moods and could be demanding. He traveled with a huge entourage — not out of ego (he appears to have been disarmingly modest) but because he hated being alone on the road.

That in part explains the joy he felt as one of the Three Tenors, sharing the stage with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras for innumerable concerts and recordings.

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