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Pavarotti - Music from the Motion Picture
Luciano Pavarotti (tenor)
DECCA 483 4894 [c.83:00]

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) was seventy-one when he died. This disc, well identified by its title, is a souvenir of the film plus that bane: bonus tracks. Do not buy it if you want a formal classical Pavarotti collection. This is the official soundtrack of the Pavarotti documentary by director Ron Howard. There’s a lot here to like and perhaps a few tracks that will irritate those who ‘knew’ Pavarotti from the theatre or opera boxed sets and will not countenance the incursion of populism.

It’s also worth underscoring that while there are two versions of Nessun dorma (tracks 1 and 19) neither of them is the famed “Three Tenors” item. The original has the aria smoothly dissected among the dazzling trio each of whom is struck by the others’ starry ways: Pavarotti the Italian and the two Spanish tenors José Carreras and Plácido Domingo. The three sang that aria together at the Caracalla Baths in Rome on 7 July, just before the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final. Track 1 is Pavarotti lifted from the classic Turandot set with Mehta and Sutherland in the 1960’s. Track 19, from Rome in 1990, has Pavarotti alone, Mehta again in charge but no choir (heart-fluttering tremolo strings instead), glamorous arena sound and applause. These still pack a gravity-defying emotional punch.

As marks of the product and the target-market note three things: first, that there are 19 tracks and another three designated as ‘bonus’ tracks which claimed to be previously unreleased; these date from 1964 to 1996, although the bonus tracks may be later. Secondly, there is no booklet - so no sung words and no commentary; instead, there is a glossy four-fold sheet with some pretty splendid photos (mixing portraits, covers of boxed sets, stage and family album pics) on one side and track details on the other. Thirdly: no details of the total playing time are given but the duration is, in fact, very generous.

The tracks mix studio and live, arena and concert-hall events, piano accompanied and full orchestra with choir, some with audience applause and without, and one (track 16) with Pavarotti’s spoken introduction. A resounding Voce'e notte is followed by two Donizetti items including a ‘signature’ tear-jerker in Una furtiva lagrima. While on the subject of the lachrymose, let’s not forget the sobs in Vesti la giubba, here live in Philadelphia in 1990. His Celeste Aida is dignified and in impeccable style as is Questa o quella and the darker-toned La donna è mobileMe voglio is in caramel Neapolitan cantabile and in somewhat sorrow-dampened form in Silenzio cantatore. Pavarotti carries all before him in O soave fanciulla (with Mirella Freni, let’s not forget) and E lucevan le stelle. Much the same can be said of the Brindisi with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge, the latter showing his natural feeling for the breadth of all elements of this opera. O sole mio is given the full silver-screen treatment by Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo and Mehta. A vucchella registers not quite as deeply with its frank borrowings from Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. The inclusion of the Bono tracks (tracks 17 and 22) ends up as a curiosity reminiscent of the truly dreadful disco versions that used to “light up” some film score LPs and CDs - Polanski’s and Sarde’s Tess for one. We are in the barely damp shallows with Bono in Miss Sarajevo and Miserere (tr. 21) but there is always Pavarotti. There will always be Pavarotti.

Rob Barnett

1. Nessun dorma (PUCCINI: Turandot) [2:57]
John Alldis choir, Wandsworth School Boys Choir, LPO/Mehta
2. Voce 'e notte (de CURTIS) [4:29]
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Giancarlo Charamello
3. Pour mon âme - Quel destin (DONIZETTI: La fille du régiment) [2:10]
Orchestra ROH, Covent Garden/Bonynge
4. Una furtiva lagrima (DONIZETTI: L'Elisir d'amore) [4:47]
5. Celeste Aida (VERDI: Aida) [3:37]
Wiener Volksopernorchestra/Leone Magiera
6. Me voglio fa'na casa (DONIZETTI) [2:50]
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Anton Guadagno
7. Questa O Quella (VERDI: Rigoletto) [1:50]
Orchestra ROH, Covent Garden/Edward Downes
8. La Donna è mobile (VERDI: Rigoletto) [2:26]
9. O soave fanciulla (PUCCINI: La bohème) [4:12]
Mirella Freni/BPO/Karajan
10. E lucevan le stelle (VERDI: Tosca) [2:56]
NPO/Nicola Rescigno
11. Vesti la giubba (LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci) [3:08]
12. Silenzio cantatore (LAMA) [4:51]
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/Giancarlo Charamello
13. ‘A vucchella (TOSTI) live from Carnegie Hall [2:39]
John Wustman (piano)
14. Brindisi (VERDI: La traviata) [2:57]
Joan Sutherland/ London Opera Chorus/NPO/Bonynge
15. O sole mio (di CAPUA) live from the original Three Tenors Concert, Rome, 1990 [2:53]
Jose Carreras/Plácido Domingo/Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera Roma/Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
16. Donna non vidi mai (PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut) live from Hyde Park, London [3:18]
Philharmonia/Leone Magiera
17. Miss Sarajevo (BONO, THE EDGE, Brian ENO) live from Pavarotti & Friends Together for the Children of Bosnia [6:23]
Bono, The Edge, Brian Eno, Filarmonica di Torino/Michael Kamen
18. Pietà, Signore (STRADELLA) live from Carnegie Hall [7:25]
John Wustman (piano)
19. Nessun Dorma (PUCCINI: Turandot) live from the Three Tenors Concert, Rome, 1990 [3:05]
Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera Roma/Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
“Bonus Tracks”
20. Ave Maria, dolce Maria (BENVENUTI, lyrics by Luciano Pavarotti) [2:42]
21. Miserere - live with Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, crowd noise, whoops and lots of ambience [4:29]
22. Ave Maria (SCHUBERT) live with Bono [3:55]

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