Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film is a hilarious and affectionate look at the path to stardom inside the competitive world of opera.
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film is a hilarious and affectionate look at the path to stardom inside the competitive world of opera.

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17 October 1991 (Australia)  »

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Excerpt: Khovanshchina
By Modest Mussorgsky
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not just for music lovers
28 November 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This fascinating backstage documentary shines a spotlight on the unsung (pun intended) heroes of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, a collection of otherwise faceless voices now finally given the attention they so rarely receive. The title of the film spells out their predicament clearly enough, and although many don't hesitate to share their antipathy toward the stars (lead tenors, in particular, are called neurotic and vain) the candid interviews disprove the notion that inside every chorus member is a soloist trying to get out. The dreams they share and the compromises they make aren't particular to the opera stage, but where art imitates life the opposite can be true as well, and their stories are often more dramatic than any opera libretto. One lands a coveted soloist gig in Europe, only to see the Opera House burn down before signing her contract. Another relives his childhood in a Bronx hellhole, telling of his nervous breakdown at age 18. Ironies abound, including the choice moment when a collection of preening, overdressed society snobs are compared to the more casually (in some cases slovenly) attired singers preparing for another night's hard work. All in all it's a long overdue tribute, with generous musical highlights.


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