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Subject: Re: Are opera movies forgotten?
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Tue, 5 Sep 2017 10:49:39 -0400
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As one who grew up with limited opportunity to “see” opera, opera movies 
were like manna from heaven.  Complain all one wants to about bad lip-syncing, etc., the power of the composer
syncing, etc., the power of the composer’s score, the singing, playing – all 
of it won me over.  We enjoy opera recordings which are, even at their 
best – a limited opera experience – I can’t see adding a visual component 
to a “recording” as being a bad thing.  Not in the least.  

Mr. Kane mentioned: 

“. . . the hilarious confrontation between Isolde and Tristan while Michael 
York scans the parterre boxes in SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE.”

An absolutely priceless moment in a now woefully neglected film . . . the 
first time I watched it, I had to rewind that moment about three times, 
laughing convulsively, before I could continue.   Why this hasn’t transferred to
to a BluRay or DVD format is beyond reasoning.

One of my all times favorite opera flicks is the RAI “Trovatore” with an (in 
my opinion) unimprovable cast:  Mario del Monaco, Leyla Gencer, Fedora Barbieri
Barbieri, and Ettore Basitanini.  Despite almost cardboard cutout sets, or 
perhaps because of them, everyone's firing on all cylinders and what could 
have begun almost as Marx Brothers' comedy within minutes becomes an 
all encompassing experience, despite del Monaco (whose Manrico is almost 
ridiculously handsome) jumps the shark and goes into “over-the-top” mode.  
mode.  God, I love this one!

I was glad to see Vesna give a shout out to Katerina Izmailova, a film I’d 
waited 30 years to see and which was worth every year when I finally got 
to see (and own) it.  Vishnevskaya’s performance is one of the most 
intensely demented ever captured on celluloid.  Her jump from a 
window/doorway egress to a stair landing is heart stopping – and it doesn’t 
look as though a stunt double was used.  Then there’s that final scene.  
Yahw-za!  

As a kid, the Frank Sinatra/Kathryn Grayson/Peter Lawson romp “It 
Happened in Brooklyn” features a couple of classical/operatic moments, 
most notably Grayson imagining her Metropolitan Opera debut as Lakme in 
a lavishly staged sequence of the “Bell Song.”  We also get Sinatra and 
Grayson singing “La Ci Darem La Mano” in a spaghetti garden, but best of 
all, Jimmy Durante in “The Song’s Gotta Come From the Heart.”  

Yves Montand and Shirley MacLaine give knock-out performances in “My 
Geisha” one of the gems of my childhood.  Shirley MacLaine duping her 
director husband (Montand) into believing she’s genuine Geisha for his on-location film of 
location film of “Madama Butterfly.”  The film is sometimes hilarious, but u
ultimately heartwarming in a way movies today too rarely are (not enough e
explosions back then).

Another favorite of mine is Joachim Hess’s 1972 film of “Wozzeck” (produced by the great Rolf Liebermann) with Toni Blankenheim, Sena Jurinac, Richard Cassilly, Hans Sotin , featuring a young Franz Grundheber who would go on to become one of the best Wozzecks of our time.  It
(produced by the great Rolf Liebermann) with Toni Blankenheim, Sena 
Jurinac, Richard Cassilly, Hans Sotin , featuring a young Franz Grundheber 
who would go on to become one of the best Wozzecks of our time.  It’s a 
haunting, beautiful and, appropriately gut-wrenching experience, filmed in 
and around an abandoned castle, it captures the timelessness of Büchner’s tr
tragedy.  

Hess had earlier directed what can be seen as the extreme opposite 
of “Wozzeck”:  Zeller’s charming operetta “Der Vogelhändler” featuring a 
20-something year old Lucia Popp.

There are at least two wonderful film versions of “Madama Butterly”   The 
knock-out performance of  the 24 year old Anna Moffo – who, that same 
year (1956) made an equally charming film of “La Sonnambula.”   I’m also 
a fan of Mitterand’s 1995 movie with the stunning Ying Huang and Richard Tr
Troxell with Richard Cowan as Sharpless.  

Moffo can also be seen and heard in the wonderful 1968 “Traviata” with 
Bonisolli and Bechi.  (I’m also in the minority for loving the Zeffirelli film wi
with Stratas).

Despite having some issues (like location) I do love Losey’s “Don Giovanni” with a pretty delicious cast all the way through.

There is the film of 
with a pretty delicious cast all the way through.

There is the film of “Romeo et Juliette” – horribly cut, featuring Alagna and 
then wife, Angela Gheorghiu – it was one of the first opera movies I came 
to hate.  Strong word, but there it is (and I’m a big fan of his).

I still haven’t seen the 1989 film of Boris Godunov.  I was, however, 
present at the “one night only” concert performance of the opera which 
took place the night before the soundtrack’s recording sessions began.  So
Sold out minutes after its announcement, it was an electrifying night, Ro
Rostropovich leading the massive forces required, and a cast of Ruggero Ra
Raimondi, Kenneith Riegel, Galina Vishnevskaya, Wyatscheslaw Polozov, Pa
Paul Plishka, Nicolai Gedda, and Richard Cowan (for starters).  There were al
also many Bulgarian and Russian singers  unknown to me, in many of the sm
smaller roles.  

Near the very top of the heap is the (so far unmentioned) 1979 dazzler of 
Ponnelle’s “La Cenerentola” with von Stade at her absolute zenith and 
looking like a million bucks.  It’s just about the perfect opera film.  

There was the Harnoncourt produced “Monteverdi Ring” – all highly stylized an
and gorgeous to look at.  

 “The Pirates of Penzance (w/Rondstadt, Kline, Lansbury et al); the various 
takes on Carmen (including Peter Brooke’s adaptation); 

There were two 80’s films of “The Beggars Opera” both featuring Roger 
Daltry.  Jonathan Miller’s starring Roger Daltry as MacHeath (along with 
Patricia Routledge); and “Mack the Knife” with Raul Julia in the title role, an
and starring Richard Harris, Julia Migenes, Julie Walters with Daltry as the St
Street Singer.

There’s at least two films of “Bluebeard’s Castle” – both worth watching.

Tippett’s “King Priam” was made into a marvelously intense television film ba
based on the Kent Opera production with Rodney McCann in an absolutely se
searing performance of the title role.  Sarah Walker is Andromache 

Now I can’t stop thinking about opera-movies.  And I’m still waiting for the ult
ultimate film:  Der Ring des Nibelungen!  

p.

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