Pavarotti to be brought to life in new hi-tech stage musical

12 August 2019, 12:53

Pavarotti has inspired a new stage musical.
Pavarotti has inspired a new stage musical. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Following the success of ‘Pavarotti’ the movie, the Italian tenor will be brought back to life in a new stage musical by a former opera boss, and one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors.

Luciano Pavarotti, the great tenor whose ‘Nessun dorma’ became the soundtrack of the 1990 World Cup and whose voice touched millions, has inspired a new stage musical.

Created by former English National Opera artistic director John Berry and The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey, the musical will explore Pavarotti’s life and work, more than a decade after his death.

The stage show will feature Pavarotti’s original recordings but won’t cast anyone in his role, says Berry.

“It would be impossible to find somebody who could play him,” he tells The Guardian. “As [Plácido] Domingo said, there was never a voice like his before him, and there probably never will be.”

Pavarotti’s widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, has previously turned down requests for stage rights to her husband’s story. But, impressed by Gracey and Berry’s creation, Nicoletta gave the musical her blessing and granted the pair access to a large private archive which includes letters from her late husband, as well as video footage and clothes.

Nicoletta’s support for the musical was essential, says Berry. “The stage rights are owned by the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation and Nicoletta Pavarotti. Over many years, a number of producers were looking to obtain these rights. We made a pitch and Nicoletta was excited about our ideas.

“She knew about my producing experience of large-scale work at ENO, productions that travelled the world. She knew we had investors… and we managed to get the rights. Nicoletta is a fantastic source of information. She’s built up a very good relationship with Gracey.”

Read more: Director Ron Howard describes Pavarotti as ‘boyish’

Gracey, whose 2017 film The Greatest Showman brought in more than $430m at the box office, will use cutting-edge technology in the multi-million-pound staging. As of yet, we have no further details on how the musical will look and sound.

Berry, who was with the ENO from 2005 to 2015, said: “This is a musical inspired by the voice of Luciano Pavarotti. His voice is one of the most thrilling sounds you will ever hear from anybody.

“There are so few singers, both in popular and classical music, who are as exceptional. The way he moved from the opera house to the big public arena concerts was extraordinary. The way he brought together so many iconic pop artists to perform with him... This man had tremendous charisma.

“He also made an amazing humanitarian impact, raising hundreds of millions for charity, helping children in war-torn regions of the world.”

Nicoletta Mantovani and Luciano Pavarotti
Nicoletta Mantovani and Luciano Pavarotti. Picture: Getty

Pavarotti, who once said he wished to be remembered “as someone who took opera to the people”, introduced millions of pop music lovers to the joy of opera. His ‘The Three Tenors’ concerts with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras were seen and enjoyed all over the world.

On hiring Gracey as director, Berry said: “This is not an opera, or for a niche market. This is for a wide popular audience. We really wanted someone who could bring something different to the stage, who had great flair, a really individual imagination and was at the cutting-edge of technology.

“[Enrico] Caruso was the star of the gramophone age; Pavarotti was the star of modern-day media. The way he crossed between opera and popular music made him an incredible world superstar.”

The musical also has the full support of Universal Music Group, Pavarotti’s record label.

Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti
Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti. Picture: Getty

The musical is just one project that Berry is producing through his company Scenario Two, which he co-founded around 18 months ago with digital and new-media entrepreneur Anthony Lilley.

The company’s debut production, The Light in the Piazza, starred opera legend Renée Fleming and enjoyed a 20-night run at London’s Southbank Centre this summer. It will transfer to Los Angeles in October, before touring worldwide.

With a music director, writer and designer expected to join the Pavarotti stage project in coming months, the team are working towards a 2021 premiere.