- 1h 24m
Madame Flora is terrified when she perceives a supernatural presence during one of her fraudulent séances. Menotti's first international success, "The Medium" is a tragedy in two acts for fi... Read allMadame Flora is terrified when she perceives a supernatural presence during one of her fraudulent séances. Menotti's first international success, "The Medium" is a tragedy in two acts for five singers, a dance-mime role, and a chamber opera for thirteen instruments and fourteen p... Read allMadame Flora is terrified when she perceives a supernatural presence during one of her fraudulent séances. Menotti's first international success, "The Medium" is a tragedy in two acts for five singers, a dance-mime role, and a chamber opera for thirteen instruments and fourteen players: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, percussion, piano (4 hands), and st... Read all
Performances of a lifetime
This film certainly did not lack for admirers in its own day.It took the Cannes Award for best lyrical drama(lyrical is not exactly the best word to describe what is going on)and received BAFTA and Oscar nominations.It was a conversation piece for years after."Were you ever able to see it?" and later,"Whatever happened to Marie Powers?","Wasn't that Leo Coleman flitting through the Fellini movie?" And ,sorrowfully , it was. For this film brought together three dynamic performers, who had no where better to go cinematically. Marie Powers ,an expatriate American married to a respected but uninfluential Italian opera conductor,had a reputation as a Wagnerian interpreter among Italians who preferred Germanic opera. I have never been able to find a recording from her Italian heyday in the USA.Maybe this is not such a loss. Ms.Powers must be seen to be believed ,and this film offers the only opportunity that either the majority of her contemporaries or all of posterity has to do so.In the very late fifties or early sixties,this reviewer wandered into a lower New York Church and found he had accidentally caught the unviewable Powers live.She was playing Noah's Wife and doing it to the hilt.She could handle religious folk comedy as lightly as she had swept us along the road to damnation with Madame Flora and the hapless Romany boy,Toby.And there were perhaps two hundred locals in the audience, to whom she was giving all that the role could take.I have seen Maria Callas live and Licia Albanese.There is no question Powers stands in that world class of great singer actresses. How many such are there in any century? The two youthful co-stars give equally impressive and perfectly integrated performances.With Powers it is our loss that there simply never are enough good dramatic roles for powerhouse actresses who first come on at age fifty. The young people had different problems.Both reached the apogee of their unforgettable talents at ages fifteen and twenty-eight in their first major roles.Leo Coleman has to be seen to believed,particularly as he plays a mute to a pair of hyper-dramatic women leads.Their five minute ensemble,"Why weeps my child unborn?"must have had Val Lewton gnashing his teeth that he hadn't thought of it first.For this is great story telling as well as compelling music.In fact the script is so good I can hear some disgruntled Gothic fan complaining ,"Why did they want to slow it down with all the singing?" Composer-writer-director-photographer Menotti on this occasion assumed the Orson Welles persona very credibly.To my knowledge it would be nearly thirty years before he tried anything as ambitious a second time,a haunting televised version of his script "Vanessa " during the late seventies.But that's quite all right.It is what the last Romantics are about.
- May 7, 2002
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