I adore opera and classical music in general, and after seeing Ezio Pinza singing "the Coronation Scene" from "Boris Godunov" featured on the documentary "The Art of Singing:Golden Voices of the Twentieth Century" I told myself I must see it. The result is a flawed but very underrated musical biopic based on the life and career of impresario Sol Hurok.
The story I do admit is a little schmaltzy and occasionally uninteresting, the script sometimes feels a little cobbled together and the film does start off a little slow. But the performances, production values and especially the music more than make up for any misgivings.
The film is in general beautifully shot, the cinematography is very nice and the sets and costumes in especially "the Coronation Scene" are colourful and lavish. The music is extraordinarily delightful, one review summed it up perfectly, it really is a treasure trove. "Boris Godunov" and "Faust" are operatic masterpieces, and "The Dying Swan" was close to heart-rending.
I for one liked the performances. David Wayne may initially be an unlikely choice for Sol Hurok, who as an impresario had exceptional talent, but he still manages to do something special with the role. The scene with him causing a scene about the big dinner bill was quite amusing. Anne Bancroft is lovely as Emma Hurok, and Isaac Stern plays with sensitivity as violinist Eugene Ysaye. Tamara Toumanova dances with real grace as the legendary Anna Pavlova, and Roberta Peters and Jan Peerce sing beautifully.
My favourite though was Ezio Pinza's Chaliapin. Pinza was a wonderful bass, evident in Don Giovanni, with a rich noble voice and imposing stage presence. He sure had a lot to live up to, as Chaliapin quite rightly was a singing legend, who along with Boris Christoff is considered the definitive Boris Godunov. Pinza sang and acted beautifully, his singing as always was sublime in such a demanding and dramatic role.
Overall, this is a very good and underrated film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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