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Ensuring the Full “Pavarotti” Experience for Blind and Low Vision Audiences

Pavarotti is the new Ron Howard documentary about Luciano Pavarotti, one of the most famous Italian opera singers of our time who sold more than 100 million records before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2007. The film showcases his early years, his philanthropy, and of course, his extraordinary talent, powerful music and his immense impact on the world. It is sure to captivate audiences worldwide when it opens in cinemas this Friday, June 7th.

But what is notable about the film from a disability perspective is that it is truly accessible to blind and low vision audiences, thanks to an audio description track from Michele Spitz. According to Spitz’s company website, Woman of Her Word, audio description tracks serve “as a visual description of key elements, essentially painting a picture with words to supplement the existing visual media.” And according to Spitz, “Pavarotti was my most costly and labor intensive audio description film project to produce thus far in my library of AD work of 56 films over the past six years.”

Spitz told RespectAbility that she “funded, co-produced and narrated the audio description.” She also hired two Italian voiceover artists (one male and one female) to record the subtitles of Luciano Pavarotti, his first wife and three daughters, as well as all the opera performance supertitles in the film. It was important to Michele that all text on screen was voiced and conveyed to visually impaired audiences to provide the complete history of Pavarotti’s extraordinary life.

As of 2018, the law requires movie theaters to provide closed captioning and audio description viewing equipment available for patrons who are hard of hearing or deaf and who are low vision or blind. But this amount of attention and care for the audio description track is an added bonus. Therefore, it is worth celebrating Pavarotti for this focus on inclusivity. In Pavarotti’s lifetime, he strongly believed in opera being made available to, and experienced by all audiences – all over the world – despite all else! No doubt, Pavarotti would have very likely been thrilled to know that one day this Ron Howard documentary profiling his impressive life was going to now reach an additional audience of low vision and blind film fans all over the world!

In the San Francisco area, Spitz will be participating in a Q&A session about the audio description following a screening at the Rialto Theater in Elmwood on June 23, 2019 at 2:00 PM, as well as at the Rialto Theater in Sebastopol on June 30, 2019 at 2:20 PM.

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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