The tubbiest of the Three Tenors shines in this pleasant concert film, which was shot in 1986 during Luciano Pavarotti’s tour of China. We never get to see China itself (the production is confined to a Beijing auditorium), and perhaps we get to see too much of Pavarotti (it would not be unkind to mention the entire Film Threat editorial staff could simultaneously fit in his rather spacious pants).
But all snarkiness aside, this concert film finds Pavarotti in excellent voice and spirits. When performing arias such as “La donna e mobile” from “Rigoletto” or “Federico’s Lament” from “L’Arlesiana,” the great singer hits all of the right notes – and he clearly knows it when he beams like a kid on Christmas morning during the thunderous rounds of applause.
Pavarotti shares the stage with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Municipal Opera Theatre of Genoa, under the conduction of Emerson Buckley. The Genoa singers do a fine job with old reliables such as Verdi’s “Va Pensiero”and “The Humming Chorus” from “Madama Butterfly.” And Buckley, with his vigorous body language and laser beam smile, is clearly satisfied with the show.
One could quibble that Pavarotti should’ve left the occasional non-operatic schmaltz like “O Sole Mio” at home. Still, even the silliest songs come across as 24-karat gold with Pavarotti at his vocal peak.