Casta diva (1935)

  |  Biography, Drama, Music

Casta diva (1935) Poster

Young composer Vincenzo Bellini is still an unknown music student in Napoli when he finds in a maiden's eyes the inspiration for the aria that would become his most beloved one, "Casta Diva".


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8 July 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
| Vincenzo Bellini: The Musical Drama
While Bellini is not one of my favourite composers, his operas make for very pleasurable listening, especially 'Norma'. The stories are no great shakes but there is no mistaking Bellini's style, there was no other opera composer who wrote music the way Bellini did (i.e. distinctive use of arpeggio writing and enviously long melodies), and the music is always gorgeous, earning the admiration of particularly Verdi and even difficult to please Wagner.

Despite not knowing much about Bellini himself, 'Casta Diva' had me intrigued. In that it starred Marta Eggerth, who has grown on me hugely over-time now that there has by me been seen more of her work where she's in roles that suit her and singing music that suits her, and that it was directed by Carmine Gallone, what little else personally seen from him has actually been interesting and well done (the 1956 'Tosca').

'Casta Diva' is worth seeing. It is not a great film, and anybody expecting historical accuracy are best reading a book on his life as it is near-completely romanticized here. Then again, accuracy or lack of it has rarely marred my enjoyment in watching a film, besides there are biopics out there that are not inaccurate but still manage to be great films or even masterpieces on their own ('Amadeus').

The film could have been better. Production-values-wise, 'Casta Diva' is mostly a lovely-looking film, but some occasions of less than sumptuous and mediocre at worst photography and grainy picture quality (which one will most likely put down to transfer) spoil it a bit. The sound, then again it could be a transfer or video thing, is a bit muffled and then distorts in particularly some of Marta Eggerth's higher register.

Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky and as well as being slight the story could have done with more momentum, with it for instance taking a while to get going.

However, technical faults aside, 'Casta Diva' does look good. The costumes and settings are lavish and it is beautifully photographed on the most part. 'Casta Diva' also has some unique visuals, for the time and now, in that it used abstract paintings-in-motion to express the passion between the two main characters. A very clever and visually striking touch.

Bellini's music is never less than gorgeous, and we're not talking just about 'Norma's' "Casta Diva". It will make anybody who mostly only knows Bellini's most famous arias and such want to see the operas they come from in their entirety, anybody already familiar but can't get enough of them will be in heaven once more.

While the story is not perfect, it was made with its heart in the right place and has a lot of charm and passion. Bellini's personal life as presented here is interesting, once you forget that there are liberties all over, as are his struggles with romance and with 'Norma'. Gallone directs with technical efficiency and good conveying of drama.

Eggerth was one of my main reasons for seeing this and while she is more the leading lady role rather than the "star" in a way (Bellini strictly should be), her grace, charm and nuance make for captivating viewing and she sings with a lot of beauty of tone, remarkable purity and maturity and control, Eggerth was only 22/23 here and there is such a wonderful beyond her years approach to her singing.

Not to knock the star Sandro Palmieri, who does a serviceable job though the way Bellini was written didn't seem to go above the surface, one does get the sense that there was more to this great composer than what is shown here. He and Eggerth have a good passionate chemistry.

It was fascinating seeing the virtuosity of Nicola Paganini, played with stoic determination by Gualtiero Tumiati, and Achille Majeroni captures Rossini's (a very important figure in Bellini's life) very enigmatic and seemingly complex personality well.

Overall, decent and worth a look but didn't blow me away. Gallone, the visuals, music and Eggerth are the reasons to see it. 6/10 Bethany Cox

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