By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 16-May-2019  ·  
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Pavarotti with then impresario (now Pangasinan con-gresswoman) Rose Marie ("Baby" Arenas. A dramatic 1994 Pavarotti concert.

Legendary icons of classical music are now fast being recalled in film documentaries.

Tom Volf's Maria By Callas was released last year with some great excitement among opera fans all over the world.  It is unique in the sense that it told the story of the legendary opera singer completely in her own words with clips of her performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs and family letters. The film took all of four years just for the painstaking research.

The good news is that Luciano Pavarotti (he sang in Manila in 1994) is now the subject of another film docu directed by no less than Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Da Vinci Code).

In 1982, he was seen as the leading man of the romantic comedy, Yes, Giorgio, which had short run in Manila.

But Pavarotti’s Manila connections actually date back to the middle 50s when his teacher in his native Modena in Italy, Arrigo Pola, taught in Manila and starred in several opera productions staged at the FEU Auditorium.

The executive producer of Pavarotti’s Manila concert was Rose Marie (“Baby”) Arenas whose mother, soprano Remedios Bosch Jimenez, sang with Pola in the middle 50s in Il Trovatore and Cavalleria Rusticana. Pola was also Radames in the production of Aida sang by Celerina Pujante Cayabyab now known as the mother of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.

The first official trailer has just been released and many Filipino fans were in tears among them soprano Camille Lopez Molina.

Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard said the film docu is an intimate portrayal of the tenor’s life featuring clips from his performances alongside never-before-seen footage.

Placido Domingo, himself the King of Opera at one time and Pavarotti’s friend says in the trailer, “He would just open his mouth and everything was easy.”

Howard added that Pavarotti’s life was replete with the highs and lows of great drama and, like any compelling character, he was also a man of considerable contradictions. “His artistic ambition, propelled by his massive talent, and his deep love for humanity drove his career and the powerful bond with his audiences, but they also fueled his other life as a world philanthropist. I am intrigued by the way his emotional passion not only drove his music and his powerful bond with his audiences, but his gift of his other life as a philanthropist.”

The script of the film docu was written by Mark Monroe, the writer of The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.

Of that 1994 Pavarotti presscon graced by impresario Baby Arenas (now congresswoman of Pangasinan), the Pavarotti I would remember was a gracious person and a surprisingly self-effacing one.

When Julie Yap Daza asked him if he agreed with the label “the world’s greatest living tenor,” Pavarotti replied with a firm no. And then delivered his punch line: “But if you insist, what can I do?”

It became apparent — as the tenor gave his opening remarks — that in visiting Manila for the first time, he was just retracing the footsteps of his teacher, tenor Arrigo Pola, who he said interrupted the young Pavarotti’s voice lessons in Modena just to go to Philippines. Pola’s good word about Manila audiences — in the ‘50s — reached him.

When my turn for a question came, I told Pavarotti that legendary Italian tenors like Ferrucio Tagliavini and Franco Corelli sang in Manila before him, and what could he say about those great singers?

Looking at me straight in the eye, Pavarotti said in strong terms that he was in awe of those singers who earlier visited Manila. “Tagliavini and Corelli are the greatest tenors of all time and if I am able to do at least half of what they achieved in their time, I would be very happy.”

The 1994 Manila engagement was of course full of drama fit for a teleserye.

The opening night was on a Friday night but he cancelled and the performance was reset on a Monday, two days later. Some buyers who bought tickets ranging from a low of P3,000 to a high of P25,000 promptly asked for reimbursement as they were no longer available on another date.

But on the night he finally sang at the PICC, his Filipino doctor was at his side.

His first Luisa Miller aria went well but on the second aria, O Paradisofrom Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, it was obvious the singer was straining to deliver relatively undemanding high notes and not a few opera fans were disappointed.

But he promptly delivered in Tosca and Pagliacci arias and the PICC audience cheered him.

 He told his loving audience, “I never thought it possible to arrive at this last song and it is because of the Filipino doctor (Dr Roberto Tan) who made this possible.”

In gratitude, the tenor dedicated his encore piece, Granada, to his Filipino doctor.

I joined Ms. Arenas in greeting him backstage. The tenor told the Filipino impresario, “Madam Arenas, if you invite me again, I will do better than this concert.”

Pavarotti the film docu all is set for release world-wide on June 7, 2019.

Director Ron Howard. Pavarotti's life went beyond singing
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