Luciano Pavarotti has done for opera what Mikhail Baryshnikov did for ballet. And though "Yes, Giorgio," a starring vehicle for the tuba-shaped tenor, will not do for serious music what "The Turning Point" did for dance, this campy romantic comedy is tons of fun.
It's a warmhearted romp, a Lauritz Melchior update, shot in hot colors and wide angles, with lots of scenic vistas and lavish sets. But it's often funny when it's not supposed to be, as when the outsize singer tries a thickly accented version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Pavarotti's got such pipes that he regains some dignity when performing his hit versions of "Ave Maria," "O Sole Mio," an aria from "L'Elisir d'Amore" and many more.
Pavarotti plays Giorgio Fini, sex symbol on a grand scale. He is a randy opera singer who loses his voice while on a triumphal tour of the United States. Dr. Pamela Taylor, a throat specialist played by Kathryn Harrold, cures him of his hysterical laryngitis with a shot of Vitamin B-12 in the buttock. Afterward Fini, swathed in silk scarves, comes on with Dr. Taylor -- or Pai- Me-Lah, as he calls her. Luckily, his Italian inflection adds some sauce to such addlepated dialogue as "You are a thirsty plant. Fini can water you."
At first Pamela resists the watering, for she wants the world to stay "life-size." But Giorgio persuades her to leave her tonsillectomy patients and join him on tour. In a San Francisco villa, the couple sate their passion, breaking off only to wake up the Japanese servants with requests for oysters in the wine cellar and ice cream in the sauna.
Next morning Giorgio and Pamela, with his manager (Eddie Albert) for ballast, take off in a multicolored balloon. It's a gas, really. Giorgio belts out a sappy pop ballad, "If We Were in Love," as the three float over the California wine country, finally landing at the home of an old friend, who joins Giorgio in a duet of "Santa Lucia."
There in the vineyards, the couple couples again, but we never get a peek at their love- making. What's the matter, isn't big beautiful? Apparently director Franklin J. Schaffer thought not, opting for small portions: Pamela brushes Giorgio with a kiss, though it's hard for her to get to his lips. We just have to take their passion on faith.
All's hunky-dorey until Giorgio calls his wife in Italy and the jealous doctor decamps, leaving him alone to confront his fear of singing with the New York Metropolitan Opera Company.
Near the finale, he rehearses "Turandot" with Leona Mitchell. The chills start and we remember how much we respected the man before all this started. "Yes, Giorgio" gives us a heaping helping of Pavarotti, a generous performer, who remains undiminished by this clumsy yet preposterously appealing opus. YES, GIORGIO -- At area theaters.