Discover more from Five O'Clock with Theral Timpson
The legendary singer relaxed, un-canned, at home with Peter Ustinov
Last night I happened across a wonderful treasure of an interview with the great tenor, Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). It’s a chance to encounter the singer—one of my favorite opera voices of all time—off the stage. The interview unfolds naturally at the singer’s home with the English actor, Peter Ustinov (1921-2004). I say interview, but it’s a conversation among equals. Ustinov was also in his prime at the time of this film not only as an actor, but director of films and operas, playwright, novelist, and well, sometimes interviewer of friends. This is 45 minutes of delightful and unpretentious bantering about life and art filmed on location over a few days in Vesaro, Pavarotti’s summer residence in Italy on the Adriatic coast, which also happens to be the birthplace of Rossini. In setting the scene, Ustinov says that “if the motorbikes stop their din for a second, you can hear Pavarotti practicing in the distance.” Sounds like a nice place to be.
The two mostly sit in candid conversation at the table over a glass of wine. After a while, they move about in the kitchen with Pavarotti cooking. His father was a baker, and he looks equally comfortable at the stove as he does next to the conductor or the piano. There is a scene where the iconic tenor is sprawled out in his hammock and Ustinov sits orderly next to him like an English gentleman. Of course, the Englishman is only proper in his dress. Ustinov keeps the interesting questions coming, always friendly and classy. Though the Italian is dressed over the top with bright floral shirts, it is he who has a mild manner. Still, he is forthcoming, and always with that . . . charisma. They talk about the singer's father, his voice, his career, some of his greatest memories, his thoughts on art, and just some chit-chat about this and that.
Pavarotti says he's very tough when he works. We have to take his word for it. He appears with the same relaxation, kindness, and generosity of heart that his gorgeous lyrical voice has always revealed.
5 O'Clock with Theral Timpson is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.