Stumbling across this film, made in 1984 by Daniel Schmid, justified my Netflix bill for an entire year. In today's youth-obsessed culture, where we are eager to shower even the least- talented with untold wealth, it is poignant to see artists who have given their lives for music enduring retirement at Casa di Riposo Verdi in Milan. But enduring on their own terms you cannot hold an opera stage without a supreme sense of self. Their daily world is full of music and reminiscences of past glories.
There are so many bittersweet moments in the film: Giuseppe Manachini proudly displaying his worn costumes that spark his memory; Sara Scuderi raptly listening to a 1940's recording of herself as Tosca; Giovanni Puligheddu proffering his musical credentials; Leonida Bellon encountering Scuderi in a hallway and launching into Act II of Tosca, in the end receiving "il bacio di Tosca". The Casa Verdi staff, happily and humorously, treat these histrionics as normal behavior.
Shamefully, I know nothing about any of these musicians who shared the stage with such giants as Callas, Gigli, and Simionato, but you only have to witness Scuderi's snatches of Vissi d'arte, in a remarkably preserved voice, to realize the individuality and personality of her Tosca and that she is no "povera donna, sola, abbandonata in questo popoloso deserto"; Floria is always with her. Maybe not such a bad retirement after all.
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