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In the Shadow of the Stars (1991)

William S. Jones , Allie Light , Irving Saraf  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: William S. Jones
  • Directors: Allie Light, Irving Saraf
  • Producers: Allie Light, Irving Saraf, Lynn O'Donnell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009U6XCU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,901 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "In the Shadow of the Stars" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature and lauded by the San Francisco Chronicle as "wonderfully funny yet equally heart-rending," IN THE SHADOW OF THE STARS is a hilarious and affectionate look at the path to stardom inside the competitive world of opera. Filmmakers Allie Light and Irving Saraf relegate the divas to the background and focus on a limelight-craving group of "choristers" -- the seldom-noticed singers who stand behind the soloists portraying peasants, soldiers and slaves.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
The grand spectacle of opera -- the mega-stars, the scenery, the lights, the costumes -- would be much less grand were it not for the incredible talents and contributions of the opera chorus. Winner of a Best Documentary Academy Award (in 1991) "... Shadow ..." highlights several members of the San Francisco Opera chorus -- one of the best in the US -- displaying their talents, their dreams and ambitions, their everyday lives.
From the baritone who married the mezzo to the husband of one of today's superstars (Ruth Ann Swenson), we see exactly what is involved in rehearsal and performance, the long hours, the commitment and versatility required to sing the variety of repertoire required of the members of the chorus. The video includes scenes of rehearsals and performances of "Il Trovatore," "Parsifal," "L'Africaine," "Flying Dutchman," "The Rake's Progress," and "MacBeth" among others.
In keeping with the anonymous nature of a chorister's existence, none of the featured singers is identified in the credits (a few of them do identify themselves during their segments). The editing is incredibly well-done, the photography is wonderful, and the entire film "flows" with a sense of music and rhythm.
A must see for any singer who aspires to sing onstage; or for anyone who desires a greater appreciation of just what goes into opera performance.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film! March 24, 2006
By Lump828
This is an enchanting, well-photographed film full of humor, wit and compassion. The filmmakers do an excellent job of storytelling as they take the viewer behind the scenes of the opera and tell the tales of the would-be divas. You don't like the opera? Not a problem. This movie can be appreciated by anyone who has ever had a dream unfulfilled but dares to dream on. Bravo!!!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work and MAYBE your dreams will come true. But work. February 12, 2008
What a heartwarming, lovely documentary!

While there's a similarity to Waiting for Guffman, this differs in that it is real, and that the people featured are amazingly talented and well-spoken. And even if they are not "stars," most of them seem to have worked harder pursuing their dream of making music than I can even comprehend.

My favorite is the soprano (?) chorister who wistfully says, "I'm playing a peasant, but my costume is silk because it wears well. It's sturdy. We can't get them wet, we're not allowed to sweat in them, because they are silk. But that baritone (principal)...he can wipe his face on __his__ costume and it's ok." But I also like the baritone quoting Anna Russell. And the trucker trying to learn "Madamina" while on the road. (Listening to his voice lesson is exasperating. He sounds great to my untutored ear, but his teacher, paid to be a perfectionist, only finds faults.) Then there's the baritone who sang some choral piece in Latin for his audition, and laughs while he reflects that they should have let him go right then. He seems the most at peace with his decisions and his life.

It seems to me that this would be a great film for anyone with a dream: baseball, music, whatever. Or even if you don't have a dream. It's still fun.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family Film November 22, 2006
By Zoe
This is a great film for everyone in the family. It is a wholesome, warm, sensitive look at the inner workings of the opera. This would make a great gift. I highly recommend this Oscar winner.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Again, Opera is Magic December 29, 2003
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This movie is so charming and captivating, I was spellbound until the end. You don't have to be an opera lover to be fascinated by the stories of these singers who would love to be in the spotlight, but for the most part are part of the musical background. Each vignette is unique, and the personalities are so varied. But each has the goal of glorious singing, and we can't help but care about their struggles to "make it". See this film!! And spread the news.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes One Grieves Forever" May 7, 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
We received an email from Allie Light at San Francisco Public Library several years ago. This is part of her message: "My late husband, Charles Hilder was an opera singer and music teacher. He dies of cancer at 33. This documentary is about his life and the lives of other singers. The film is a way of saying goodbye. Sometimes one grieves forever."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Theatre and Opera buffs will love this an actor I found this film to be quite interesting....also for the non performers.....the inside and insights are poignant and hilarious!
Published 9 months ago by lydia
2.0 out of 5 stars Way overated here unless you're in the film
One has to wonder how many of these rave 5 star reviews are by the chorus of singers in the film? Documentary films have progressed tremendously since this film won an Academy... Read more
Published on April 14, 2012 by M. Pope
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC MOVIE!
Loved-loved-LOVED this movie! A friend loaned me his and I had to purchase one for myself. What a fantastic chronicle of the under-appreciated chorus of an opera company. Read more
Published on November 2, 2011 by Drew W
3.0 out of 5 stars Close ups of the San Francisco opera chorus
I'm a big fan of doumentaries, especially of this type, that attempt to show personal stories of individuals involved in some artistic endeavor. Read more
Published on November 27, 2010 by Promise
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but skewed
This is a well-photographed, at times interesting collection of stories about chorus members in the San Francisco Opera. The emphasis is on homosexual members. Read more
Published on January 14, 2006 by C.A. Arthur
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a Life, Opera Buffs!
One of the most painfully hilarious documentaries ever made. This is the real-world progenitor of Christopher Guest's "Waiting for Guffman" and is one of those... Read more
Published on July 14, 2001 by "terrierman"
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