Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
JackBurley

Silver Screen's Operatunities

Recommended Posts

I'm an opera fan as well as a movie fan, and am always delighted when the two art forms combine. Alban Berg's opera Lulu features a film within the opera. The story of Lulu is the same as G.W. Pabst's movie Die B?chse der Pandora (or Pandora's Box). Since the opera version included film, it might have been nice to have the movie version include opera; but alas... ;)

 

If you share my interest, are you aware of Ken Wlaschin's resource book Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen? It's a fun tome to peruse.

 

What are your favorite opera scenes from the movies?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've haven't seen the book, but have seen a lot of movies which contain opera scenes like:

 

The Great Lover (1931)

Rose-Marie (1936)

Maytime (1937)

The Goldwyn Follies (1938)

Bitter Sweet (1940)

Rhapsody in Blue (1945)

Wonder Man (1945)

Interrupted Melody (1955)

 

Rose-Marie (1936) is perhaps my favorite from among the Jeanette MacDonald films listed, and Rhapsody in Blue (1945) contains Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess". A movie I found both enjoyable and educational (wrt famous operas) was Interrupted Melody (1955) about Marjorie Lawrence (Eleanor Parker excels in this role). But my favorite scene has to be the climactic one from Wonder Man (1945) during which Danny Kaye tries to communicate information to the police commissioner while pretending to be part of the performance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too am an Opera as well as a movie fan, and enjoy when the two forms combine. I haven't looked at Mr. Wlaschin's book for some time but I recalled that I enjoyed doing so when I did. (I can't find a copy of it at my local library.) I also recall liking what he said about my favorite movie soprano, Deanna Durbin, and how her success was largely responsible for perpetuating operatic excerpts onscreen during the 1940s. Deanna also received a nice comment from current lyric soprano favorite Renee Flemming in her recent volume on singing.

 

As far as filmizations of operas are concerned, I enjoyed the Zeferelli film of LA TRAVIATA with Theresa Stratas, Placido Domingo and Cornel MacNeil and the Jean Pierre Ponnelle version of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with Hermann Prey and Mirella Freni, and several others.

 

As for operatic moments on film, I like Fox's METROPOLITAN (1935) , with one of my favorite baritones, Lawrence Tibbett in the lead. Not only does it preserve Tibbett's performances of the "Largo al Factotum," "The Toreador Song" and "On The Road To Mandalay" (among others), but he gives a very natural and likable performance in the non-singing sections. I also like Rise Stevens's performances of the "Habanera" in GOING MY WAY and "Mon Coeur S'ouvre ta voix" in THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER and Grace Moore's operatic excerpts in ONE NIGHT OF LOVE, among others, particularly the funny staging of the quartet from RIGOLETTO (with Moore singing the tenor line!) to make the landlady forget about collecting the rent.

 

Eileen Farrell's vocals combined with Eleanor Parker's beauty and dramatics in the superior INTERRUPTED MELODY are also a favorite. I think Parker's miming job is perhaps thre finest I've ever seen by any non-singer in film history. According to Farrell, Parker suffered a brief nervous breakdown after the film was completed because she'd worked so hard on perfecting her miming technique, but the results certainly paid off.

 

Opera and film are often a marvelous match.

 

Best Regards,

Markus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Attention Cinematic Opera fans! On Sunday, July 2, 2006, TCM is going to present the Vitaphone release Don Juan starring John Barrymore. Included will be the short subjects that were made as an accompaniment to the film; among them will be Giovanni Martinelli singing "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci. A rare opportunity to see this early 20th century tenor on film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"As far as filmizations of operas are concerned, I enjoyed the Zeferelli film of LA TRAVIATA with Theresa Stratas, Placido Domingo and Cornel MacNeil and the Jean Pierre Ponnelle version of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with Hermann Prey and Mirella Freni, and several others."

 

As I recall, that Zeffirelli Traviata was pretty grand. I remember he made the sets especially large and opulent, as he shot the movie as a flashback and thought this was how Violetta would remember it -- as bigger than life. I'm also glad that Sr. Zeffirelli captured Domingo's and Ricciarelli's interpretations of Otello on film, though I'm sorry that he butchered the final act by cutting up her aria. Domingo was the Otello of our time; just as Kiri Te Kanawa was the Countess -- so I should check out the Nozze di Figaro that you mention above.

 

I wonder how many full operas were filmed before the 1970's when Ponelle and others started doing so? There's the Powell/Pressburger 1951 Tales of Hoffman, of course. And they rejoined in 1955 for Die Fledermaus, rechristend as Oh Rosalinda!. My earliest opera memory was seeing the 1965 La Boheme on the screen of the El Rey in the small town where I grew up. I later discovered it starred Freni, Raimondi and Panerai (names that meant nothing to me at that age). Have you seen the 1953 Aida which paired Sophia Loren's body with Renata Tebaldi's voice? The notion sounds like it could be a dream or a nightmare, depending on Miss Loren's ability to lipsynch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone mentioned the Joseph Losey-directed DON GIOVANNI with Ruggiero Raimondi as DG and Kiri Te Kanawa as Donna Elvira? Quite a cinematic - and vocally splendid - trip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think anyone has mentioned the Lossey version of DON GIOVANNI, CH3:

 

Glad you did, though. I agree it's an excellent eye 'n earful for the opera lover, and it's interesting to see Raimondi's older Don G., too.

 

Only caveat: Why did the producers dress the lovely (both vocally and physically) Miss Te Kanawa like "Smurfette's" Italian cousin?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, Markus,

 

Agreed - with that white fright wig, Dame K. looked like a fugitive from Francis Ford Coppola's inept Gary Oldman DRACULA some years back.

 

CH3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The DRACULA in which, as more than one critic noted, "Drac" looked like Elton John as he prowled the streets of London in those 90s "shades"? Yes, regrettably I remember it well, CH3, a very apt comparison.

 

It's to Kiri's credit that she still managed to look lovely despite the horrors the wardrobe department imposed upon her. Made me wonder why Don G. didn't stop with Donna Elvira.

 

PS Always nice to hear from you, CH3. Hope all is well with you and yours...and the delightful Janie P., of course!

 

PPS A POX on director Stanley Donen! Not only is his monotone commentary on the deluxe DVD edition of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS a sure cure for chronic insomnia, but, while he says several flattering things about Howard Keel, he says next to nothing about Jane P. or her performance: only a fleeting reference to her talent as a dancer compared to other singers/sopranos and having run into her recently. Boo! Hiss!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding the audio commentary on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I was grateful for them pointing out the birds who fly into the backdrop...

 

I saw Don Giovanni when it first came out in the theatres, and apparently it's time for me to revisit it as I'd forgotten Miss TeKanawa's wardrobe. I'd also forgotten what an impressive cast it featured; looks like a nice historical assemblage of late 1970's singing.

 

This might be a fun movie to put on a double- or triple-bill with Douglas Fairbanks The Private Life of Don Juan and Errol Flynn's Adventures of Don Juan. If only we could get ahold of Ricky Ricardo's version...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Markus, everything's fine on the homefront, thank you. How's by you? I agree totally about the whining, monotonal Stanley Donen. To steal a line from Jane P. in her FEMALE ANIMAL epic - "He's a drip of the first water". Maybe, it's his choreography background coupled with the typical Freed Unit snobbery and the general MGM dissing of their singing stars and lavish over-hyping of the Astaire-Kelly-Charrise-Caron tribe.(Interestingly, the scorned Pasternak flicks usually made money while the Gene Kelly snoozefests tended to be highly regarded, shall we say, sleepers).

 

Getting back to Donen, nary a mention of Jane OR Howard in either his Actor's Studio interview or his special Oscar acceptance speech a few years back, while lavishly enumerating Astaire, Kelly, Hepburn, et al. Guess he was too big to remember his days as a gofer on A DATE WITH JUDY.

 

Oh, well - at least Jane and movie mom Ann Sothern are getting 24-hour marathons on TCM in August.

 

Like you, I'm also looking forward to checking out the long-awaited Deanna biograpghy come September. It's been a long time coming!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good to hear all's well with you & yours, CH3:

 

I'm doing fairly well m'self. Thanks for asking. Personally, I have nothing against the Freed Unit talents, but to hear Donen and some others talk, you'd think that's all there was to MGM which just ain't so. I mean, to cite just one example, MGM's first feature film produced in three strip Technicolor was the 1938 MacDonald/Eddy opus, SWEETHEARTS, not an Eleanor Powell extravaganza.

 

As for the "Whozzat?" attitude of Donen & others toward the chronically, criminally underrated Janie P., I just don't get it. I mean, the lady's films almost always made big bucks for the studio, even when they put her in schlock, and she almost always netted good to excellent notices for her own work, even when the films themselves weren't considered to be very good. What more do they want?

 

While I agree that the dance sequences in 7Bs For 7Bs are spectacular and should be acknowledged, they're what? 10 minutes at most in a movie with a 103 minute running time? Given that the dancing brothers and brides are pretty much interchangable personality-wise, if the performances of Powell and Keel didn't anchor the film, the crowds would have avoided it like the proverbial plague, much as they did with the too-arty Kelly dance opus, INVITATION TO THE DANCE.

 

As she did in ROYAL WEDDING and would later confirm in THREE SAILORS AND A GIRL, in 7 BRIDES, Jane re-enforces the impression that, despite being primarily a singer, when it came to being fleet of foot she was a very gifted artist. Would it kill the Metro brigade to acknowledge her talents for once? Apparently so, but, like I said, I just don't get it.

 

I am glad to see that TCM's dedicating a day to Jane next month. It's belated, but at least it's a start.

 

I'm very interested to read the Durbin bio and will be interested to see if there's any reaction from the lady herself. My feeling is that she'll probably just ignore it, though she might issue some comment through her fan club's newsletter. Time will tell...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No kidding - I think it's just criminal that the Joe Pasternak unit does not get credit for their masterful contribution to the great MGM musical. Pasternak may not have been as 'sophisticated' in his tastes as Freed, but his musicals were certainly just as entertaining - occasionally, more so!!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry for the delayed response. I sort of mis-spoke myself when I said all was well. A freak storm moved through our area Friday evening, arranging an intimate encounter between our house and a two hundred year-old oak. No injuries - but insurance woes up the wazoo in the days ahead.

 

I agree about SEVEN BRIDES. After the big dance H and J are moved to the back burner and the generic kids take over, and the movie just dithers into sappy comedy-melodrama. Neither of the leads has a single song in the last third of the movie. Unusually, Jane and Howard never sing a note together. The CD soundtrack indicates that they DID sing a reprise of "When You're In Love", which was cut - maybe on the theory that 1954 audiences had gotten past operatic types going head-to-head and tonsil-to-tonsil. Too bad. As it is, Howard just lamely says, "When you're in love, Milly - when you're in love."

 

Any idea why Deanna's biography isn't being announced on Amazon, in addition to Barnes and Noble? On the other hand, Amazon has a listing for what seems like a (1996) biography - at $132.00!! Any idea what that's all about?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TCM is showing the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera. Presently I'm watching them scewer Verdi's Il Trovatore, with Olga Dane singing Azucena's "Strida la Vampa"; Walter Woolf King is Manrico; Luther Hoobner is Ruiz and Rodolfo Hoyos is the Count di Luna. Oh yes, Kitty Carlisle Hart is Leonora singing along with the "Miserere" chorus, who also got to sing the "Anvil".

 

Other singers in the film are: Tandy Mackenzie, who sings Verdi's "Questa, O Quella" (from Rigoletto) and Alexander Giglio who sings in the Pagliacci scene with Miss Hart and Mr. King.

 

P.S. Verdi's "Anvil Chorus" makes another audio appearance ("audio appearance -- is that possible?) in Animal Crackers via Chico's piano.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My turn to apologize for the delay in getting back to you, CH3. My excuse is not nearly so dramatic or potentially life-altering as yours. I've just been overwhelmed with a good deal of work the last few days. I'm sorry to hear about your homeowner horror stories, but relieved to hear that none of you were harmed in the meteorological melee. Hopefully, you've at least gotten your house back in order following these bouts of severe weather.

 

I walk to and from work most days and it seems as if every week there's a new (very large) tree branch lying across the middle of one of the side streets I pass. As this street (and the trees that line them) is situated between two churches, I'm always surprised that the trees don't get some sort of protection from higher powers, but I guess the good Lord truly doesn't discrminate when it comes to weather wrongdoings.

 

I actually kinda like the reconciliation scene between Jane and Howard in 7Bs for 7Bs as is, with Jane at her loveliest in that early American quilt dress and she and Howard doing a marvelous job of expressing the awkwardness they feel at meeting up after being apart for so long. That said, I agree 100% that more should have been done with both leads after the barn raising sequence. Jane remains as sort of a "mother hen" for the (mostly) non-descript brides, but she's almost always part of tout ensemble and doesn't get much quality "alone" time to express herself, and it is extremely regrettable that neither she nor Howard are even given a single song to sing in the last third of the film.

 

I don't know why the Deanna biography isn't listed on Amazon.com. I've wondered about that myself. Perhaps Amazon is waiting for a confirmation on the publication date before advertising the book.

 

I think the impossible exorbitant 1996 volume you mentioned is a book called DEANNA DURBIN FAIRY TALE by a devout Durbin fan named W.E. Mills. I haven't read the whole book, though I have seen excerpts, in which, to say the least, Mr. Mills reveals himself to be a most devout fan of Miss D's, but I get the impression that the book is more about his devotion to her than a critical, objective analysis of her work. Oh well, at least the title suggests he's put the reader on notice that this is not a work of objective scholarship.

 

While I'm not at all opposed to a fan expressing his/her admiration for a performer, and, as you well know, am quite an admirer of Miss D's myself, I can't imagine paying $132 for a biography on her....or anyone. I even balked at paying the full price for Gloria Jean's memoir and, at roughly $40 for the hardcover edition (including shipping), that was a far less expensive proposition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I missed A NIGHT AT THE OPERA this time around, Jack, but I must say, other than the Marx Bros. trademarked shenanigans, I've never been terribly impressed with the singing, etc. in the IL TROVATORE sequence from any of the performers involved. I like both Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle in some other things I've seen/heard them in, but don't think they appear to advantage here. It all seems rather underpowered and somewhat 'flat" to me. Then again, how can anyone compete with Harpo and Chico slipping the sheet music to "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" in the middle of hte conductor's Verdi score and subsequently batting a baseball into the Met's Golden Horseshoe?

 

Has anyone seen any of the movies starring "legit" opera stars of the period like Grace Moore (e.g, ONE NIGHT OF LOVE), Lily Pons (e.g., I DREAM TOO MUCH) and Gladys Swarthout (e.g, CHAMPAGNE WALTZ), and, if you have, what did you think of their (and other notable opera stars' efforts?

 

Just curious.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never been exposed to Opera much, but there are some things I really enjoy. The medley by Jeanette MacDonald in 'San Francisco' is one, and by Mario Lanza in the life story of Enrique Caruso are two. Finally Rise Stevens 'Ave Maria' in Going My Way was spectacular especially with the boys' choir backing her whoever they were, I never looked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hollywood opera scenes gives a minute taste of the real thing. Although Jeanette MacDonald sang in some opera houses, her voice wasn't very large and was light in timbre. These are fine attributes when singing the soundtrack in a recording booth, but can be lacking in the environs of an opera house without a microphone as a crutch. But she prided herself on her live appearances, studied with Lotte Lehmann and made her opera debut in Montreal as Juliette in Gounod's Romeo and Juliette in 1942 (years after her famous outing in MGM's San Francisco). Marguerite in Faust was a favorite role of her's and she sang this in various houses during the 1940's and 1950's. Her MGM movies were considered "high class entertainment for the lower classes" -- opera for the masses.

 

Mario Lanza's voice also wasn't large, but he was a tremendous influence. His popular MGM movies brought opera to new audiences and later tenors (Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo among them) stated Mr. Lanza as their inspiration. He had appeared in Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) at Tanglewood in the early 1940's and later sang Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in New Orleans. The Great Caruso was historically inaccurate, but it's probably the most popular opera movie ever made. Mr. Lanza is handsome and so charismatic and he was given the amazing opportunity to sing alongside experienced opera singers Dorothy Kirsten and Jarmila Novotna. Blanche Thebom and Lucine Amara are also seen in this film. And of course, Ann Blyth, was trained as an opera singer and had a fine voice.

 

Rise Stevens, of course, was a very successful opera singer; a staple of the Metropolitan opera's mezzo-soprano roles. When I was a kid, I was seriously into opera (freaky, I know...). I remember going to Tower Records and buying the vinyl lps of Bizet's Carmen featuring Marilyn Horne. As I made my purchase, the older cashier sighed, "Ah Carmen! I had my sexual awakening when seeing Rise Stevens sing this role at the Metropolitan Opera." At the time I was embarrassed by his confession, but now I giggle at the memory. Ms. Stevens, by the way, is still alive and well. She is very active on the board of the Metropolitan Opera and she looks swell!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just curious. Where did you get the information that Mario Lanza's voice wasn't "large"? I know that all movie singers (obviously) are miked - but I've frequently read the opposite about Lanza - that his voice was huge, and I know that he was frequently castigated by critics for indiscriminate bellowing - with one wit observing that he belonged to the "can belto" school of vocalizing. He was my own introduction to opera in my late teens, and I remember being impressed with the sheer size of his sound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my opera professors had told me that Lanza's voice wasn't large; that it was better suited to European houses than the cavernous American halls. Unfortunately relatively few ever heard him sing live. I wonder if any audience members from his Tanglewood days or his Philadelphia performances are still around. Certainly those who attended his concert tour just before starting at MGM are around. Koussevitzky admired his voice and gave Cocozza a full scholarship to Tanglewood when he was only 21. He was young; male voices continue to grow into middle-age. Otello, for instance, is traditionally a role that tenors wouldn't approach until in their 40's. At any rate, all we have to go by now are recordings of his glorious tenor. It's a shame he was in such poor health. There's no telling where his career would have gone if he'd been able to fulfill his commitments at La Scala and Roma in the late 1950's and early 1960's. And it's touching that he's remembered so well today. Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures paid homage to Lanza, as the girls (anti-heroines) were avid fans and played his recordings through the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it's too bad he never made it to the legitimate opera stage. I've read that his only stage appearance was a one-night performance as Pinkerton in BUTTERFLY. Aside from his ill-health, his ego, boorish behavior, and total lack of musical discipline all did him in. Too bad. The voice was unique and truly great, a force of nature, in its way. A Hollywood anecdote says it all. Evidently, Howard Keel was watching some daily rushes of Lanza singing with some others in a darkened studio. Keel muttered, "You've gotta be nuts to sing like that!" Lanza himself turned around and snapped, "Too bad YOU'RE not nuts, Howard! You'd sing better!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want to thank you for putting into writing what I've been saying for years about Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. What an overrated film! The only watchable part of it is the barn raising dance.

 

I an sorry to hear about your house vs. the tree.

 

> Sorry for the delayed response. I sort of mis-spoke

> myself when I said all was well. A freak storm moved

> through our area Friday evening, arranging an

> intimate encounter between our house and a two

> hundred year-old oak. No injuries - but insurance

> woes up the wazoo in the days ahead.

>

> I agree about SEVEN BRIDES. After the big dance H and

> J are moved to the back burner and the generic kids

> take over, and the movie just dithers into sappy

> comedy-melodrama. Neither of the leads has a single

> song in the last third of the movie. Unusually, Jane

> and Howard never sing a note together. The CD

> soundtrack indicates that they DID sing a reprise of

> "When You're In Love", which was cut - maybe on the

> theory that 1954 audiences had gotten past operatic

> types going head-to-head and tonsil-to-tonsil. Too

> bad. As it is, Howard just lamely says, "When you're

> in love, Milly - when you're in love."

>

> Any idea why Deanna's biography isn't being announced

> on Amazon, in addition to Barnes and Noble? On the

> other hand, Amazon has a listing for what seems like

> a (1996) biography - at $132.00!! Any idea what

> that's all about?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

????!!!! I get the impression I DEFINITELY gave you the wrong impression. I think SEVEN BRIDES is a great musical. My contention was that it could have been even greater if the story had stayed centered on the comedy-romance of the two leads. Powell and Keel had a fine chemistry between them, and the songs were all zesty and tuneful - but the story became kind of routine when the other siblings took over the plot and the music pretty much stopped. If anything was over-rated, it's that overlong dance number - which has unfairly hogged the critics' attention all these decades. People didn't show up in droves at Radio City in the summer of 1954 just to watch choreography.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today is Jane Powell day as part of this "Summer Under the Stars" month; so we'll get our share of opera scenes on screen, I suppose. Presently Lauritz Melchior and Marina Koshetz join in a duet from Aida in Pasternak's Luxury Liner. Ms. Koshetz was a third generation opera singer!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...