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Nothing in the live performing arts generates the slavish devotion as opera and its stars.
German filmmaker Jan Schmidt-Garre, now 45, specializes in classical music.
His only notable success so far has been Opera Fanatic. The oddball film made the festival rounds starting in 1999 and then went into hiding - until now.
This 90-minute documentary follows eccentric New Yorker Stefan Zucker (founder of the Bel Canto Society and, in the 1980s, host of a local Saturday-night radio show called Opera Fanatic) as he seeks out Italian divas who ruled opera stages in the 1940s and '50s.
The names - Iris Adami Corradetti, Fedora Barbieri, Anita Cerquetti, Gina Cigna, Gigliola Frazzoni, Carla Gavazzi, Leyla Gencer, Magda Olivero, Marcella Pobbe and Giulietta Simionato - may not mean much to anyone younger than 60 but, in their day, these sopranos and mezzos represented the pinnacle of their art in Italy.
We get ghostly black-and-white footage from early TV broadcasts mated to excellently remastered audio to show us who these divas were in their day.
We also get them in their faded hauteur as Zucker asks them uncomfortably silly questions in heavily accented, mewling Italian. Zucker is squirm-inducing, but there is something endearing about the singers as they testify to the enduring values of their art.
Schmidt-Garre's doc-within-a-doc style is intrusive, especially when he switches video sources to make the point. -- Toronto Star, John Terauds, June 2008
Top Customer Reviews
Fedora Barbieri camps it up for the camera in an embarassing manner, making a fool of herself and Zucker at the same time. Zucker asks her a question about having sex with women in her dressing room before going on stage. But Barbieri is too thrilled with all the attention to slap him and chuck him out like Pobb? did. One wonders who has the bigger ego and who is more excited to be on camera.
The entire enterprise is an ego trip for Zucker. The title, "Stefan and the Divas," is misleading; this is mostly about Stefan, and a more unappealing subject it is difficult to imagine.
Still, there are wonderful moments with Anita Cerquetti, Giulietta Simionato, Leyla Gencer and Carla Gavazzi, when Zucker shuts up and we get a glimpse of these great singers. The segment with the ancient Gina Cigna is a disappointment just because she is so old and feeble and can hardly string two words together. One of the best moments is when Zucker tells Gencer that Barbieri and Simionato deny ever using chest voice. She looks incredulous, rolls her eyes and asks, "Questo di LORO?Read more ›
He also keeps bringing up his mother which has no place in this documentary (but in his shrink's office).
Terrible. One can see lots of good footage of those divas on YouTube, stay away from this. Really.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As many reviewers noted, the interviewer can seem a problem in this film. Stefan Zucker's voice sounds damaged, perhaps a poor choice for narrator, and initially he seems silly. Read morePublished on November 1, 2013 by Lothringen
This documentary is certainly worth watching thanks to the footage of the Italian opera divas of the 30-50s. Every word of theirs is captivating. Read morePublished on June 11, 2009 by Naty
Probably, Stefan Zucker is not the right person to do these interviews. First of all, his italian is not enough to structure an unambiguous question. Read morePublished on July 28, 2008 by U. Yildiz
"What are the various aspects of expressive singing?" is one of the questions Stefan Zucker puts to the divas. Read morePublished on June 25, 2005 by Amazon Reviewer