I gave this two and a half stars because it was somewhat juicy and instructive to me with regard to content only -- as someone writing a novel with an opera backdrop. But it was hastily done--very shabbily written memoir. Here are my observations:
As the subtitle suggests, this book details the story of the decades long business relationship between Luciano Pavarotti and his manager, Herbert Breslin, during which time Breslin guided what he calls, “the greatest career in classical music,” essentially by taking Pavarotti out of opera houses and into the concert world. Pavarotti as a result developed a massive amount of appeal with the public, becoming a household name.
Breslin is quoted as describing Pavarotti as “a beautiful, simple, lovely guy who turned into a very determined, aggressive, and somewhat unhappy superstar”. Pavarotti’s larger than life personality is revealed sometimes with affection but more often with Breslin’s uncensored gimlet eye. Pavarotti is painted as like the ultimate divo in the later stages of his life.
Through the King and I, you learn more than you may have wanted to know about Pavarotti—how dysfunctional and obsessive he was in all facets of his life and how it worsened the more famous he became. Yes, Breslin details the challenges of managing and producing stars and mounting the productions in which they appear. At times, reading this book was like being a fly on the wall at The Met, La Scala, San Francisco Opera House. Because Pavarotti’s personal habits are so colorful, you also get a whopping dose of dirt on other stars, too.
It is amazing that opera houses still thrive (or survive) because of how inconstant stars are and how egomaniacal they can be and those working around them become absorbed in the profitability more than the talent of the star they represent. The reader quickly learns that many stars and their managers become very jaded about opera in general and don’t really care about the art form continuing for the next generation. The world revolves around them.
As I mentioned, it is a very perfunctorily written memoir—nothing much creative about it. Just a journalist sort of bloodletting—not written primarily to smear Pavarotti—it strives for more balance than that. But Breslin certainly takes his swipes. You get a clear sense the Breslin is trying to obtain some justice in writing this book that he wasn’t accorded in his dealings with Pavarotti.
If Breslin never wrote another book it would be too soon.