Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Menotti - The Medium / Powers Alberghetti Savona Dame Morgan Schippers|
Actors: Marie Powers, Thomas Schippers, Leopoldo Savona, Belva Kibler, Beverly Dame
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Filmed in 1951, this must be one of the oldest opera videos in existence. Making allowances for the limited technical resources of that era, it is still one of the best. Composer-librettist Gian Carlo Menotti was also a g... more »
Cinematic Masterpiece on mediocre DVD
Scott Andrew Hutchins | Bronx, NY, USA | 01/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gian-Carlo Menotti (yes, he's billed with a hyphen in the film) proved his cinematic mettle with this screen adaptation of his opera, _The Medium_, but unfortunately, has not made another film, and may be too old to make one now (he's in his nineties). The opera tells the story of a fake medium who uses her daughter, Monica, and adopted gypsy son, Toby, whom she found with his tongue cut out, to fake seances for people who insist upon believing even when she tries to reveal their fakery. More significantly, it is about Madame Flora's relationship to her family. She raises the now-teenage Toby (Leo Coleman aka Leopoldo Savona) as a savage half-wit and provides him only with rags to wear, and no shoes or socks, even though she recognizes that he is intelligent depsite being mute. She cannot handle this and becomes quite paranoid about him. At one point she gets up in the night and starts dripping candle wax on his chest, then tries to seal his eyes shut with the wax. Monica (the adorable Anna Maria Alberghetti) loves Toby and is always quick to come to his defense. Madame Flora claims she was having trouble sleeping and not thinking clearly. Ultimately, she throws Toby out of the house, despite Monica's wishes, which leads to tragic consequences as her paranoia escalates.The film is an amazing blend of opera (though, unfortunately, as it is a feature film, and not a stage production, the singing is not done on camera, something new technology such as that used by Michael Ritchie and Penny Moorcock may help eliminate in the future), film noir, and Italian neorealism--a striking, bizarre, and ultimately powerful combination that shows Menotti was equally gifted as a writer (he is his own librettist), composer, and filmmaker. An uncredited tall man appears frequently, and we are sometimes given to seeing Madame Flora's bizarre visions. Even though you can tell she is lip-synching, Marie Powers is as gifted an actor as she is a powerful alto. The sequence in whcih Monica and Toby attend a fair and the latter gets harassed is disturbingly handled. Despite this auspicious debut, he did not return to cinema, though his most famous work, _Amahl and the Night Visitors_ was written as the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame special (albeit they did not call it "Hall of Fame" yet), which he did not direct.VAI has done a disservice to the film with their DVD. There is little digital artificating, but the clarity and horizonatal ghosting suggest the disc was mastered from a VHS tape. It has no special features, and only two menu screens, each having chapter selections for each of the two acts. The sound is probably as good as it could be, but much of the treble, many of including Alberghetti's higher passages, are difficult to make out, but VAI doesn't even provide us with optional subtitles, so I'm still not clear if the issue is that she loves Toby as a brother and feels protective or that she is actually in love with him, as it could have been either from the staging and what I did hear. Given Toby's affliction and household status, either one works.I still had to give this important film five stars despite its presentation, which is at least passable. Even if Menotti can't make another film, he could surely have provided an audio commentary, if VAI could afford it, and an English subtitle option would not have been a big deal. Given the film was an Italian co-production, it's surprising that Italian subtitles aren't an option as well. I think this is an amazing film, but after having viewed a library copy of the DVD, I find that the $35/$31 price tag is extremely excessive in relation to the effort put into the disc."
Scott Andrew Hutchins | Bronx, NY, USA | 03/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I talked to the president of VAI and he said Menotti described their efforts as "a miracle"--there's no way this DVD will look much better given the available materials, and it was not mastered from VHS, and the previous VHS release apparently was virtually unwatchable--this looks like an old SP VHS tape of a good print. The soundtrack had to be remarried to a better print of the film than has ever been seen, though he didn't explain the horizontal ghosting. I'm definitely going to buy a copy, even if it's not entirely satisfying.As to why there's no audio commentary, Menotti told his biographer that the whole film was essentailly improvised--and what an inspired improv. Much of the rest of the book commentary was about how he had to direct Powers's every gesture to keep her from camping it up. I suspect he has little more to say about the film, leaving it forever an enigma."
The Medium - the "Composer's Cut"??
Neil Mcgowan | Moscow, Russia | 05/08/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fascinating piece of film - but it differs SO radically from the opera we know as "The Medium" that it's practically a different piece!A whole new opening has been added (with "film-style" music that fails to live-up to the rest of the score). Toby & Monica go for a nightmarish walk in a street-market too. There IS a super additional operatic (ie sung) scene between Flora and Mrs Nolan - which really fleshes-out Mrs Nolan's underwritten role in the "stage" version of the piece. Marie Powers is dramatically compelling, but it has to be said that the whole film is very underpowered vocally, and you'll be disappointed if you buy this as an "opera" video... they half-speak their roles. A noble portrayal of Mr Gobineau, though!This is interesting as a period piece, but modern viewers may find it a little saccharine emotionally. The stage version is much tauter - but hasn't been filmed so far. This is a worthwhile "background material" purchase if you are buying the cd of the stage version - but I would not recommend buying it *instead* of the cd! Buy the Chicago Opera Theatre's sound-only recording and use your imagination - it's a lot more spooky than this."