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A look at the life and work of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.
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.
Here are the life lessons we took from "Pavarotti":
Who needed umbrellas anyway? 'Pavarotti' relives that magical time he romantically serenaded Princess Diana in the rain
Make the most of your gift.
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 a 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.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: