Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

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lennygoran
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Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:25 am

Would love to go to this tonight but the gardening may get in the way-I think it will be shown at more theaters sometime in the future. Regards, Len


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Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

A new documentary by Ron Howard forces us to reckon with the celebrity tenor’s high and low art.

By Zachary Woolfe

June 3, 2019

In opera, people spend a lot of time saying relatively little. It takes a four-minute aria for the young hero of Puccini’s “La Bohème” just to introduce himself to the pretty neighbor who’s knocked at his door.

Why do we wait?

Because this stretching of time, the refusal to just say it, opens up a space in which we’re forced to live — sometimes to the point of excruciation — with emotions that would normally pass in seconds. In that “Bohème” aria, “Che gelida manina,” it’s as if our heads are being held underwater in a pool of boyish longing, the endearing boastfulness of a guy with a crush. It’s sublime even as it — because it — skirts too-muchness, even tackiness.

Possibly no one in operatic history has been as sublime and as tacky as the subject of “Pavarotti,” a new documentary by Ron Howard that opens on Friday. The film, like an opera aria, forces us to linger on Luciano Pavarotti, a tenor who, 12 years after his death, remains beloved — and yet may be taken a little for granted.

Opera fans hold on to his 1960s and ’70s glory days, when his sunny voice was in its prime — I mean, listen to this, right now — and he challenged himself in corners of the bel canto repertory. The broader public is likelier to remember the cheesy charity concerts and duets with Bono, the guilty “Three Tenors” pleasure with a white handkerchief clutched in his hand and endless high C’s.

The importance of the new documentary, the opportunity it provides, is to make us reckon with these two Pavarottis as one, and in doing so to recognize a side of opera that many of us who love it as high art like to ignore. The vulgar side, the trashy, the elemental, the baldly populist — the side never better embodied than by this hulking, sweaty man with stringy hair, a patchy beard and an unforgettable sound.

Born in 1935, Pavarotti arrived on the scene just in time to ride the high-culture-mass-market wave that crested in the half-century after World War II. A smiling charmer, he was also, the film makes clear, more or less a child his whole life: sweet and generous, arrogant and capricious.

Part of the first generation to grow up surrounded by recordings — tenors like Caruso, Gigli and Martinelli he could emulate — he never learned to read music. His great luck was to fall in with Joan Sutherland, the Australian soprano who took him under her wing with her husband and conductor, Richard Bonynge. It was opposite Sutherland that his career ignited, at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972, with a ringing series of nine high C’s in the big tenor aria of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment.”


Opera, like gymnastics and ballet, intertwines measurable bodily achievement — sticking the landing, hitting the high note — and harder-to-define “artistry.” Sometimes music critics feel guilty about the “athletic” stuff, as if we’re simply Olympics judges holding up numbers after a vault.

But the artistry emerges from the athletics, however uneasily, and the athletics from the artistry. From “Fille” to his performance at the World Cup, Pavarotti’s career — the high and the low, and the highs and the lows — demonstrated that they’re ultimately inseparable.

Even at his greatest, in passages I hear in my head all the time, he carried within him the stadium shows of his later years. Other tenors sang “Che gelida manina,” that aria from “La Bohème,” with more conversational intimacy. Listen to Jussi Björling on the treasured 1956 recording conducted by Thomas Beecham, letting his Mimì in on his love like he’s sharing a secret.

Björling sang it like it was a tender black-and-white romance, a scene from “Casablanca.” Pavarotti’s rendition, on a 1972 set led by Herbert von Karajan, is in wide-screen Technicolor.

He begins the aria with a slight veil over the voice, almost conjuring a dream, so that he can overpower us in the next phrase with the contrast of a clearer tone, as if we’ve woken up in a reality infinitely happier than sleep.

His extremes are more intense than Björling’s refined intimacy — cheaper, even. But the life force — the potent, perspiring sincerity that would be even clearer once he got on TV — is thrilling. When he sings that he’ll tell Mimì in a couple of words who he is, Pavarotti’s high note is so arrestingly golden that it finally makes sense that, when he asks if he should keep talking, she’s speechless. You’d be, too.

Go to 3:28 in the recording above. Just before the spectacular climax of the aria, he digs into a single word — “stanza” — with such conviction that you don’t quite know what to do; you will remember the tangy way he pronounces the first vowel to the end of your days.

It’s brash, that “stanza”; it’s almost obscene. And yet it’s right. Opera is certainly delicate, intelligent, tasteful — but at the same time it’s the opposite of those things. Pavarotti is our most compelling modern reminder of that.

His “Three Tenors” colleague, Plácido Domingo, appears as a warmhearted talking head in the film. While Pavarotti’s career seemed, to many, to descend irrevocably toward the stadium as if to damnation, for Mr. Domingo the 1990s ended up being a blip. They didn’t distract too much at the time from his “real” operatic work, and once that heady era was over, he smoothly returned to the opera house.

In other words, he did everything correctly.

Still, if I were fleeing to the proverbial desert island, I’d sacrifice the whole of Mr. Domingo’s output to preserve that single “stanza” of Pavarotti’s.

Anyone who has been an intelligent, responsible, diligently overachieving older sibling will sympathize with what I see as Mr. Domingo’s predicament here. He’s achieved a longevity probably unmatched in operatic history; he reads music well enough to teach himself more than 150 roles; he ambitiously added conducting and opera-house administration to his resume. He is the very model of an opera star, everything a critic could ask for.

Yet by conjuring the full range of why we love the art form — the sometimes guilty mixture of high and low, elevated and crass, purity and sweat — it is Pavarotti who brings us to the secret, beating heart of opera.



https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/arts ... oward.html

maestrob
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by maestrob » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:35 am

As James Levine once said in a TV interview, "Thank God we had them both!"

John F
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by John F » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:29 am

A lady asked at the library's information desk where the movie would be showing on Friday, and we looked everywhere we could think of online and couldn't find out.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by maestrob » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:54 am

John F wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:29 am
A lady asked at the library's information desk where the movie would be showing on Friday, and we looked everywhere we could think of online and couldn't find out.
Try googling "Pavarotti documentary." There are two theatres in Manhattan that are showing it: The Paris theater is one of them.

lennygoran
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:56 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:29 am
A lady asked at the library's information desk where the movie would be showing on Friday, and we looked everywhere we could think of online and couldn't find out.
John our Rockaway Mall had it but we spent the whole day in the garden and had to pass this up. Regards, Len

John F
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by John F » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:19 pm

maestrob wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:54 am
Try googling "Pavarotti documentary." There are two theatres in Manhattan that are showing it: The Paris theater is one of them.
Thanks! We tried that on Monday and those theatres weren't listed, but now they are. I hope the lady who asked us can find it now.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:20 am

Another review from the Times and the official trailer. Regards, Len

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‘Pavarotti’ Review: A Charmed Life on the High C’s



By Ken Jaworowski

June 6, 2019



If Luciano Pavarotti ever had a bad day, you wouldn’t know it from “Pavarotti,” an upbeat documentary that recounts the opera singer’s life, or at least its better moments.

Directed by Ron Howard, “Pavarotti” grounds itself in the artist’s childhood in Italy and winds its way through his career to his death in 2007. High points are the film’s forte, and they’re backed by extensive and well-assembled footage: the Three Tenors concerts, the celebrity friendships, the sold-out performances. Pavarotti’s attempts to broaden opera’s audience are rightly praised, and the featured audio recordings are superb.

Low points, though, are usually discounted; there’s some tame discussion of his tabloid-making love affair, while artistic criticism and overreaches (“Yes, Giorgio,” anyone?) often go unmentioned. This is a film too enamored of its subject to pry very deeply.

And yet, it’s hard not to be enamored as well, as Pavarotti’s larger-than-life personality shines in almost every scene. The singer’s optimism is contagious, and his schoolboy-like wonder is jubilant. There’s a lot to smile at here.

Aside from talk of Pavarotti’s early childhood during World War II, the film makes few attempts to psychoanalyze him — a fair enough choice. Instead we get a bit of opera history, and glimpses behind the scenes of his shows. Sections on how the singer’s management raised his profile are especially intriguing.

With all its admiration, “Pavarotti” sometimes threatens to turn sappy — a fawning interview with Bono nearly pushes it over the edge. When that happens, Howard and his team (including the writer Mark Monroe and the editor Paul Crowder) are quick to highlight the tenor’s charisma and turn the attention back to his talents. They know: When Pavarotti starts to sing, you can overlook everything else.



https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/movi ... eview.html

John F
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by John F » Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:18 am

So the film is not a critical biography but a celebration. That's as it should be. In the long run, artistic achievement is all that matters; if Pavarotti hadn't been a great operatic tenor we wouldn't care about him or even know who he was. And the long run has already begun, as Pavarotti has been dead for 11 years.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:06 pm

John F wrote:
Thu Jun 06, 2019 10:18 am
So the film is not a critical biography but a celebration.
John bravo bravisimo! Regards, Len :D

jserraglio
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:00 pm

USA TODAY

Ron Howard's documentary "Pavarotti" serves as a vivid reminder of just how huge a role the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti played for a generation – magically breaking out of the classical music realm to become a music superstar.
But the passionate way the infectiously beaming, Hawaiian shirt-loving opera star lived his life is the most enchanting element of "Pavarotti" (opens Friday in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago; expands throughout summer).

The documentary about the singer, who died at 71 in 2007, does address his many shortcomings, including his extramarital affairs, which turned into tabloid fodder. But the portrait Howard paints – based on more than 50 interviews and enhanced with intimate home videos – is of an ebullient force who brought joy to the world and those closest to him.
"For better, sometimes worse, Pavarotti just lived so fully," says Howard. "He gave that kind of energy to his art, his work, and he gave that energy to his life. And that’s to be respected."
Here are the life lessons we took from "Pavarotti":
Pavarotti came from humble origins, born in Modena, Italy, in 1935, the son of Fernando, a baker with a beautiful tenor voice, and Adele, who worked in a cigar factory. He was headed to a career as a baker as well, worked as an elementary schoolteacher, and there was even a brief, successful stint selling insurance. But Pavarotti ultimately threw himself fully into pursuing his singing dreams and made his professional debut in "La Boheme" in 1961.
Put molto garlic, spice in your homemade spaghetti sauce.
Pavarotti clearly loved to eat, and the film hilariously points out how devoted he was to America's all-you-can-eat buffets. He traveled with all the kitchen equipment for fine dining, plus suitcases of fresh Italian ingredients, adding an overabundance of fresh garlic and spice to his homemade spaghetti sauce. Talk-show host Phil Donahue is shocked seeing the dish re-created in the studio ("All of that?" he asks) as Pavarotti prepares with a smile, then enjoys.
Just take a goofy bicycle ride every now and again.
When Pavarotti traveled to China in 1986, he introduced himself to the country by riding a bicycle through the Beijing streets. The images of the grinning, swerving Pavarotti on bicycle are the most joyous, encapsulating moments in the documentary.
The joy wasn't a put-on. When Pavarotti appeared on BBC Radio's Desert Island Discs program in 1976, in which guests were asked what they would take if they were cast away on a desert island, he chose a bicycle as his luxury item.
Follow your heart, despite the critics.
Howard was struck watching Pavarotti's home videos, seeing the private man discuss how he was affected by fear of failure and constant critical snipes – that he shouldn't be singing with pop stars in his "Pavarotti & Friends" concerts or that he was singing past his vocal peak. "It's powerful to see how he felt that criticism," says Howard.
Publicly, Pavarotti continued undaunted. In one stirring moment, Bono says his friend's voice improved with years. "The only thing you can bring to these songs is your entire life, a life that's been lived, mistakes that you've made, hopes, desires – all that stuff comes crashing out."
Above all, cherish friends and family.
The documentary illuminates how Pavarotti and Placido Domingo started "The Three Tenors" concert to bring José Carreras back into the public eye following his battle with leukemia. They had no idea the concept would become a phenomenon. Pavarotti valued his friendships and his love of family is omnipresent, despite the distance of life on the road and some heartache.
Ex-wife Adua Veroni, his grown daughters Lorenza, Cristina and Giuliana, and his second wife Nicoletta Mantovani remember, often tearfully, the man with the big, flawed heart they loved.
That positive sentiment came through all the interviews.
"He was imperfect, but the headline at the end was, 'Remarkable man, glad I knew him, he was good for the world, good for opera, and good for me,' " says Howard.
6:07 pm EDT Jun. 6, 2019

John F
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by John F » Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:18 pm

Pavarotti was the Caruso of our time, the exemplary Italian tenor against whom all Italian tenors were measured, and whose popularity extended beyond the opera house. When Caruso died, a month later there appeared a popular song, "They needed a songbird in heaven, so God took Caruso away."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qq9VgENkr0

So far I haven't seen any songs about Pavarotti, but maybe Bono or one of the other pop singers he duetted with will provide one.
John Francis

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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by barney » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:29 am

I have to agree entirely with Woolfe. I admired Domingo above almost any singer, but I LOVED Pavarotti. Such a gorgeous, natural voice.
I may have posted this before, but I saw him only twice (he didn't come much to Australia apart from his first breakthrough tour with Sutherland when I was a child in New Zealand). Once was at Covent Garden in 1981, when I queued up from 5am for a ticket to hear him in a Masked Ball. He had flown in from New York only that morning (IIRC, his father was ill) and there was some doubt whether he would sing at all. He started slowly, but soon was in full voice, quite magnificent. The second time was a year or so before he died,when he lost his money and had to go back to recitals. My wife and I were given tickets by a charity ($1400 each!!!), and it was a complete travesty. The voice had utterly gone. He simply stopped singing for a bar before a high note, which came out as a strangled squawk. Yet even then he still had presence and purity and a lovely tone.
Did anyone see that wonderful interview Peter Ustinov did with him in a documentary. They both got into Pavarotti's pool and I thought the Archimedes effect would flood Modena. 12 tons of displacement!

maestrob
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by maestrob » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:20 am

Pavarotti had PRESENCE, which made him a great singer in spite of his shortcomings. I have a home video of him taped in Montreal (now thankfully transferred to DVD) in December of 1987 when he was in his prime singing Christmas selections live in concert that I admire greatly. Other treasures include a Verdi Requiem with Scotto & Horne led by Abbado, a Fille du regiment (w/Freni) and Idomeneo from the early 60's (all live).

Joann Grillo (who was a judge on my panel, along with Richard Kness) once said to me "In those days, you hadn't made it at the MET unless you'd been groped by Pavarotti!" Nowadays, that sort of thing is not tolerated: how much we've changed!

jserraglio
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by jserraglio » Fri Jun 07, 2019 3:24 pm

maestrob wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:20 am
Joann Grillo ... once said to me: "In those days, you hadn't made it at the MET unless you'd been groped by Pavarotti!"
I reckon that makes Pavarotti "King of the Low Cs".

barney
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by barney » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:25 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 3:24 pm
maestrob wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:20 am
Joann Grillo ... once said to me: "In those days, you hadn't made it at the MET unless you'd been groped by Pavarotti!"
I reckon that makes Pavarotti "King of the Low Cs".
:lol: Very good.

lennygoran
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Re: Pavarotti Captured the Sublime and Vulgar Sides of Opera

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:21 pm

barney wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:29 am
Did anyone see that wonderful interview Peter Ustinov did with him in a documentary.
Yes I saw and enjoyed that. Regards, Len

https://vimeo.com/12031956

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