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Opera Fanatic

3.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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(May 27, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A journey into the underbelly of Italian opera of the fifties. Stefan Zucker, an eccentric opera fanatic from New York, visits the opera divas of his childhood: megalomaniacs, beauties, vain, fascinating - forgotten by many but worshiped by countless oper

Review

Obsessive fandom only makes sense to those who share in the passion, be it for comic books, gaming, Star Trek - or opera.

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


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Giulietta Simionato, Anita Cerquetti, Magda Olivero, Stefan Zucker, Leyla Gencer
  • Directors: Schmidt-Garre
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian (PCM Stereo), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: May 27, 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016FM6Z0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,421 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Opera Fanatic" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
As I watched this video, I become more and more disgusted at the behavior of this creature known as Stefan Zucker. He is a petty, affected fop who kept asking each of these talented women about whether or not they used "chest voice." These are women who have sung the greatest roles in opera. Of all the possibilities of WHAT to ask them, he's on some personal mission to validate whatever freudian motivation he has for proving the validity of his own mother's voice (or lack of it). So, he's a terrible interviewer. I've heard better enunciated Italian by first year language students. He's a creature with a HUGE ego, who thinks he actually has something to say about the gifted women he has interviewed. The best part of the video is the reaction of each of the singers as they have that "deer in the headlights" look, as if to say, "Can this THING be real." He is an embarassment to all men who love opera and have to fight the stereotyping that comes with that. That being said, the entertainment value of the tape is high--this tape is an excercise in the display of an ego which most small screens cannot contain.
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Format: VHS Tape
The divas' comments, interspersed with judicious video excerpts of them in performance, reveal fascinating artistic and personal qualities. Many gems here. However, too much time is wasted on Stefan Zucker's comic (and sometimes tasteless) shtick. He has so much insight to offer, it's a shame the directorial choices were so frivolous.
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Format: VHS Tape
This film could have been a real treasure - had the interviewer been someone other than the intensely dislikable and (as an interviewer) utterly incompetent Stefan Zucker. The opportunity to interview these great divas was a rare one and, in most cases, Zucker just blew it, especially with Marcella Pobb?. Zucker asks the dumbest questions - like, "What was the highest note you ever sang?" He has some bizarre obsession with chest voice and asks most of the divas if they used it. Pobb? quite rightly throws him out of her apartment after he is foolish and impertinent enough to ask why she left the Met. (There was some unhappy love affair and obviously she wasn't going to discuss that, so why ask?)

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?
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Format: DVD
As perhaps you can tell from nearly all the reviewers' comments, this film has something raw and even unintelligible about it. The unintelligible part is only this: the alchemy that lets Mr. Zucker obtain the substance he finds. Who cares how he gets it? But get it he does. Mr. Zucker goes at these aging ladies with a simple and essential inquiry: By what means did the opera-singers of yore put into their work an emotional content that's largely missing today? And then, presto, you see the content. The experience is immediate, undeniable, overwhelming and finally heartwarming. By comparison, I found the film 'Tosca's Kiss'--which enthralled me when it came out--just a little too neat and trim. Don't worry about what most of the other reviewers here are saying. You can feel bad for them. They missed the show. This DVD is a little piece of magic.
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Format: VHS Tape
Being true blue opera lover, this was a huge disappointment. This Stefan Zucker is a clueless buffoon, totally unable to conduct a meaningless interview. The entire thing looks like an amateurish farce. I am surprised that all the singers didn't react like Pobbe and threw him out. Just when you think that finally something good and interesting is coming you hear his most irritating voice (+ his most irritating Italian) asking something ludicrous, and that's it. Embarrassing for him, disappointing for opera lovers.
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.
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