This was a surprising documentary shown recently on CUNY's TV channel. Jan Schmit-Garre had an idea to interview female opera singers that made an impact in the not too distant past. In order to do so, he engages the company of Stefan Zucker, a man who had trained to be a tenor, ended up as the host of his own radio program, "Opera Fanatic", on WKCR-FM.
Mr. Zucker is a man who knows about opera, which is his passion. We are taken to Italy where most of yesterday's divas live. Some have had lives after they retired, either teaching or involved in other areas of music. Mr. Zucker is also an opinionated man with a lot of ideas about what he is trying to accomplish by visiting the women he is about to present to us.
We are taken to meet these women, who inspired adoration in their prime, in the apartments they now live in, most in a subdued splendor. They are introduced to us as Mr. Zucker asks them questions about their techniques and about how they perceived their roles in the music world.
An earthy Anita Cerquetti is one of the most outspoken ones of the women. Carla Gavazzi who is shown as she talks to our host in a Bergamo's open air cafe, makes the biggest impression for her knowledge and no nonsense approach to something she did so well in the past. A playful Leyla Gencer asks to have her interview at the highest temple for the opera: La Scala. She is also a woman who lives in the present. Another good impression is created by Fedora Barbieri, who even sings at the end of a dinner party. Magda Olivero makes a great contribution in her recollection of days gone by. Giulietta Simoniato is a complex personality who had a great voice, yet, she didn't go as far as she could go because intrigues that plagued her career.
The concept of the diva comes alive when the film makers go to pay Marcella Pobbe a visit. She makes the team wait and finally, the on the third attempt, Mr. Zucker and his team come to her small Milanese apartment. It's clear from the start, she wants to do things her own way. When the interviewer asks her to name other singers, she goes into a diva moment, after all, this was her moment on the spotlight. She is again, the one and only.
A great documentary for opera fans. Mr. Zucker and the team behind the documentary have done wonders to bring back, for a moment, these fabulous women who made such an impact when they were in the spotlight.
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