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Subject: Re: Opera Singers in Movies
From: Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 6 Sep 2017 14:15:43 -0400

text/plain (128 lines)

Personally, my favorite Melchior film was his first: "Thrill of a Romance"
with leads Esther Williams and Van Johnson. (The film also features Tommy
Dorsey and his band). There is nothing quite like an Esther Williams film;
there is a kind of wonderful madness to the swimming numbers, and the films
(and Williams) are enormously likeable.

Melchior reportedly loved making movies. The Met reportedly hated him making

I would add on Nelson Eddy that he also sang Orest. To my mind, that was his
most unlikely role. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of G. Paul Padillo
Sent: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 11:47 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Opera Singers in Movies

While not quite as broad a category as our prior “opera as movies” series,
it it's worth noting the number of opera singers who appeared in movies, go
going all the way back to the silent era, some of which have been di
discussed in the earlier thread.

Most singers didn’t successfully transfer their artistry from the stage to
the screen, but some are definitely deserving of mention.

Theresa Stratas made her film debut as “White Squaw” in 1961’s “The
Canadians” directed by the great “Western” filmmaker, Burt Kennedy.  
Outside of operatic (and operetta-ic) roles, she made relatively few other
features, the most notable being 1997’s “Under the Piano” with Amanda
Plummer.  Stratas won the Gemini Award (Canada's “Oscar”) for Best
Supporting Actress for her role as Regina Basilio, a complicated former diva
who gave up stardom for family.  Despite the sacrifice, Regina almost
singlehandedly destroys the lives of her two daughters.  Stratas creates a
difficult to love woman, hardboiled and tough as nails, whilst hiding a
tortured vulnerability and an almost phobic fear of life.  

While I’m generally leaving out non-operatic performances, Galina
Vishnevskaya’s performance as Katerina Ismailova already brought up by
myself and others, cannot go unmentioned as it’s one of the most searing,
intense performances – sung or spoken, committed to celluloid.  Her only
non-singing role is the title character of the great Russian director,
Alexander Sokurov’s film “Alexandra.”  While most Americans find his work
slow going, I happen to adore his films and “Alexandra” ranks up there with
his best work.  The fact this man, a titan outside of the world of opera,
wrote and directed this to honor Vishnevskaya is a genuine tribute to one of
the 20th centuries greatest performing artists.  Stripped of her customary
glamor, Vishnevskaya’s Russian babushka is a tough, crotchety old woman who,
by any means necessary, (including a tank) makes what is likely her last
voyage, a visit to her grandson, a soldier serving in the Second Chechen
War.  Like his other work, Sokurov’s “Alexandra” raises cinematic
storytelling to the highest form of art, and worthy of this great diva.  

Another great singer from the past century, Lauritz Melchior made a handful
of films including 1942’s screwball “Luxury Liner” joining up with George
Brent, Jane Powell and (wait for it) . . . Xavier Cugat!  Of his performance
the NY Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote:

“Mr. Melchior puts his bellows to work on anything from a snatch of ‘Aida,” 
to a Scandinavian drinking song.  The latter is highly appropriate, for
you’d think from  the way he drinks beer in great quaffs all the way through
the picture that he was posing for a brewery ad”

Crowther ends his review with:

“Color, as usual, does something to make this Luxury Liner look brighter 
than it is.  Batten down your hatches, if you board it.   You’re likely to
the passage rough.”


Julia Migenes dabbled in film, most (un)notably in “Berlin Blues” a
hackneyed, romantic potboiler with the soprano as an American cabaret singer
living in Berlin, when her pianist/boyfriend is shipped back to the East.
Contrived enough as it is, the film goes off kilter when a conductor friend
tries to help Migenes establish herself as an opera singer.  I remember
barely staying awake through this in a DC Cineplex not long enough ago to
have forgotten it.  

While we primarily think of him as a “Hollywood Musical” actor, Nelson Eddy
was a bona fide opera singer, with some impressive roles in  his repertoire,
including the U.S. premiere of two Strauss operas, “Ariadne auf Naxos” and
“Feuersnot.”  Other impressive roles included the Drum Major (a tenor
role!), Amonasro, Wolfram in “Tannhäuser”; Marcello; Count Almaviva;
Pappageno; and most impressive (for my money) Gurnemanz in a Parsifal
conducted by Stowkowski (who conducted him in other works, as well).  He was
also chosen to sing in the world premiere of 
Respighi’s   “Maria Egiziaca” conducted by the composer himself, when the 
scheduled maestro, Toscanini, bowed out at the last minute due to illness.

My favorite singer ever is Callas, but when I first saw Pasolini's "Medea" 
when I was a kid, I generally loathed everything about it.  I watched it a
few more times, but it wasn't until I was "no longer young" that the film fi
finally worked on me and now I watch it perhaps once a year and find more to
to appreciate with each viewing.

I'd be interested in seeing what other films people mention starring, or
featuring opera singers.  


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