I write here as a movie-goer for about 70 years and an opera-lover for 65 of those years. This is an interesting film, mainly because it is the only opera (or anything close to same) that Richard Tauber ever filmed, which is unfortunate, as he was one of the great opera stars of his time (and THE great tenor operetta and lieder specialist of that time). Although the only two previous reviews appearing here pretty much rate the excellence of the film correctly, there are other things of interest to know about it. The leading lady, Steffi Duna, was Hungarian and filmed this while still on her way to Hollywood, where she would appear to no particular effect in a number of films, but ultimately marry the much underrated Dennis O'Keefe and pretty much retire from acting at that point. The second leading lady, Diana Napier, had only just become Mrs. Richard Tauber around the time this was filmed, and they would remain married, if much-separated by the war and occasional domestic problems, until his death in 1948. Tauber made about a dozen films between his German and English output, and while no Hollywood matinée idol, he was certainly an idol to all who loved operetta, but most probably to the women who did so. Like Barbra Streisand, he made up for his looks with a very great talent. However, there is a bit of misleading commentary in the other entries shown here that should be corrected: Enrico Caruso did not make PAGLIACCI famous, he simply was the greatest Canio of his time; and he did not record the opera, only two arias from it. It is also lamented that Caruso did no films "as far as is known" in the electrical recording process. The qualifier there is unnecessary, as Caruso died in 1921 and real experiments in electrical recording did not come until 1923, the process wasn't introduced into studio recordings until 1925, nor into films until 1926/27 (with the Vitaphone shorts and, of course, THE JAZZ SINGER). Lastly, opinions can vary greatly, but one writer's comment that Tauber was a good, if not great, tenor could be taken two ways, but I think he meant simply that Tauber was a good, but not a great, tenor. Also, that he was not up to the singing demands of this opera. Well, the general consensus amongst critics, musicians and audiences was (and remains) that he was one of the very great tenors of the 20th century, and while he may not have been up to the film demands of this production (which might also be blamed on the director, since he was up to the usual film demands in his other 11 films), he was certainly up to the vocal ones for, among the grand total of 97 complete operatic and operetta roles he sang on stage, Canio was one he did any number of times at the Vienna State Opera and possibly in Germany as well (Tauber's career was much inhibited and incredibly peripatetic, thanks to Adolf Hitler). Indeed, he regularly sang even heavier roles than Canio, including Calaf in the German premiere of TURANDOT, Don Jose in CARMEN, and Pedro in TIEFLAND while simultaneously being recognized as THE outstanding Mozart tenor of the first half of the 20th century, all of the foregoing quite apart from his operetta, concert and film activity. Incidentally, after Peter Dawson and John McCormack, he was the most prolifically recorded classical singer of the entire 78rpm era, leaving some 735 published sides, and he was also a regular conductor of the London Philharmonic during the years Sir Thomas Beecham decided to spend in America. These accomplishments should be noted in any evaluation of such a very great artist. Would that this filming of the PAGLIACCI story came up to some of his other activities, but it is a solidly sung and acted performance throughout. (Incidentally, the great film version of PAGLIACCI was done in Italy in the late 1940s, with a very young Gina Lollobrigida acting the part of Nedda, but not, despite claims to the contrary, actually singing it; the claims were given some currency because Lollobrigida did possess a reasonable semblance of a soprano voice, but the actual singer was Onelia Fineschi. If the people making the Tauber version had seen this one first - a chronological impossibility, of course - they might simply have folded their tents and gone home.)
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?