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La Scala - The Golden Years - Volume 2
Interviews by Enzo Biagi
Original language: Italian
Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German and Japanese
Sleeve notes in Italian and English
rec. Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy and other venues 1981/82
Notes: English, Italian
DVD Video. Aspect ratio, 16:9 NTSC. Audio Format: Linear PCM 2.0. All regions
DYNAMIC DVD 37729 [81:00]

As with the first volume of this series (review), the contents are derived from the films the music journalist Enzo Biagi (1920-2007), one of Italy’s most famous, made for TV. With his ready and long-established access to La Scala coupled with a personable manner he was able to draw out from his interviewees information and even a few indiscretions. The result was a series of films for RAI television which featured production extracts and artist interviews all from that golden era of the 1980s. These are produced in the volumes of this series, all re-mastered from the original Accasfilms.

This second volume starts with film of La Scala's budding ballet-dancers as they are put through exercises preparing for their arduous life ahead. Biagi meets Luciana Savignano, one of the greats who trained at La Scala and the Bolshoi. He became prima ballerina in 1973 and later worked as a choreographer. This is followed by renowned conductor Riccardo Muti in rehearsal of Mozart’s evergreen Figaro. He is seen working with Giorgio Strehler who also appeared in Volume 1 of the series LINK PLEASE. It has to be said that listening to one talking about the other is like a mutual admiration society.

A considerable extract is given to a meeting of the Gallery Friends of La Scala. Their often-conflicting views as to productions are much like our own today when stage modernism, concept theatre direction or 'Regietheater' as it is called, has tended to even greater extremes in northern Europe, but was somewhat in its infancy at the time. Their complaints and views draw La Scala administrator Carlo Maria Baldini into explaining the huge problems that the great theatre must face as far as staging and repertoire are concerned. Since his time there has been the fractious departure of Music Director Muti in 2005 after nineteen seasons of conducting the opening night and massive cuts in government subsidy.

Perhaps most interesting is the extended interview with diva Renata Tebaldi who made her debut as a twenty-four year old. She was a favourite of Toscanini on his return to La Scala after World War 2. In a gentle manner Biagi probes and Tebaldi responds with sincerity talking about her experiences. She also speaks of her perfectionist character that left her often feeling unfulfilled. Perhaps more germane to opera-lovers she is very open about her relationship with Maria Callas as well as Von Karajan and Toscanini. The film ends with the second part of the interview with the great mezzo Giulietta Simionato, the first part being in volume 1. She is relaxed and reminisces widely in an easy and charming manner.

Robert J Farr



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