'He wanted to honour God with his voice'
The new film Pavarotti embraces the tenor's highs and lows - and the distinct sense of stewardship he felt over his voice, writes Krish Kandiah
I quite enjoyed Rocket Man - the biopic of Elton John’s rise to stardom. I struggled with Bohemian Rhapsody - the dramatic rock opera of Freddie Mercury’s career. And I thoroughly adored Pavarotti - the new film retelling the most famous tenor singer the world has ever seen.
Unlike other musical biographies this film is not a dramatisation; there is no famous actor playing the Italian maestro and there are no lavish set-piece recreations of his greatest hits. Instead we get never-before-seen footage of Luciano Pavarotti and lots of it. One moment he’s in the Amazonian rainforest singing in an abandoned theatre, the next he’s doing an interview with the gushing Bono, and then there he is cooking pasta for his friends and family. Pavarotti was larger than life in so many ways and his exuberantly infectious joie de vivre communicates powerfully from the footage no matter how grainy or faded it is technically.
Importantly the film does not shy away from the darker side of Pavarotti’s life and this is important in this “MeToo” age. His personal life had incredible lows as well as highs. There are three women who dominate the storyline. Pavarotti’s first wife who sacrificed so much as he rose to fame and who answered all of his fan mail. Secondly we hear from the young protégé who became his lover while he was still married and thirdly there is his second wife Nikoletta who became his widow. All three women feature heavily in the film and are honoured by it. The film reminded me in a way of the life of King David – the emotion, the singing, the personal successes and failures, the connection to God.
I found it fascinating that Pavarotti consistently refers to his voice as a gift from God. He felt a distinct sense of stewardship of it, as a talent supernaturally entrusted to him. His wife Nikoletta explained to me that this is what drove Luciano’s mentoring and pro bono work - that he wanted to honour God with his voice. Watching again the fabulous performances of the three tenors singing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma reminded me not just of my childhood, and the 1990 Italian World Cup, but how music can lift the human spirit.
If you have ever enjoyed the music of Pavarotti you will love this movie, and for those who have never heard of him this film will bring a new audience to appreciate his gift to the world.
Dr Krish Kandiah, author of God is Stranger (Hodder 2018)
We are encouraging people to book in groups to attend a One Night Only event on 13 July, hosted by Katherine Jenkins, nationwide - tickets at www.pavarottifilm.co.uk - and use this free one-pager to talk about it afterwards.