Opera Fanatic Film

OPERA FANATIC

Iris Adami Corradetti, Barbieri, Cerquetti, Cigna, Frazzoni, Gavazzi, Gencer, Olivero, Pobbe, Simionato; Zucker; Schmidt-Garre, dir. (1998) 93m. In English and in Italian with English subtitles. Color/B&W.

A full-scale book embodying lengthy interviews with the divas is forthcoming and will be available separately. Meanwhile, an expanded version of the original booklet is contained herein; just scroll down to view links. The booklet is out of print.

Download the complete essay, including the chest voice and vocal technique articles, in PDF format:
Opera Fanatic: Biographies, Opinions—and Dish

Find our other titles featuring these divas by clicking on a name in the "Find other titles with" box on the right.

"What are the various aspects of expressive singing?" is one of the questions I put to the divas. They discuss and demonstrate their interpretations, singing brief excerpts from Norma, Butterfly, Trovatore, Traviata, Tosca, Fanciulla and Adriana (Olivero, age 86, performs the "Monologo"). They take opposing positions about chest voice and the voce infantile (a childlike sound). The film includes footage from 40 years ago--some of which is not otherwise on video.

Shot in 1996 on locations in Italy (including La Scala) on a big budget, the film is illuminating, poignant and brimming with personality.

My concept was to put a camera in front of each diva and have her talk for several hours, to make a repository of her thoughts for posterity. Accordingly the director, Jan Schmidt-Garre, and his crew shot forty-three-and-one-half hours of film for the project. But his objective was to create a film that would be shown at film festivals and on TV worldwide. He succeeded by editing the material down to ninety-three minutes and thereby introduced the divas to millions of people who hadn't heard of them.--Stefan

Here is an example from the material found in the outtakes:

Simionato on Björling, Di Stefano, Del Monaco and Corelli, From the Outtakes to the Film Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas 

Stefan Zucker: Did you sing with Björling?

Giulietta Simionato: Yes.

SZ: What did you sing with him?

GS: Cavalleria, at the Metropolitan.

SZ: How was he?

GS: The voice was very beautiful. Too bad he drank. This is what ruined him. I don't want to go into personal particulars, but he was a good colleague and a pleasant person. That's how I remember him. Björling was a fine singer. He wasn't much onstage; he didn't enter into the role. But I managed to shake him up. In my Santuzza there was such emotional charge that it forced them to collaborate with me.

SZ: How would you compare Björling's singing to Di Stefano's?

GS: Oh, they are two completely different things--like the sun and the moon. Di Stefano is the sun--impetuous, volatile, warm-blooded--a real Sicilian. Björling was Nordic. There was a composure in the man and in the singing.

SZ: Was he too cold for the Italian repertoire?

GS: Perhaps he was. But the voice was so beautiful, so well placed, that he could do anything he wanted with it, and you could forgive his being a bit cold.

SZ: Di Stefano made many mistakes in his performances with you in Mexico. How was it to sing with him?

GS: [Laughs] He just had gotten married. And for this reason he didn't come to the rehearsals and didn't know the operas. It's not that I'm telling you something because he's not here; he knows it. And he used to say to me, "You have to act more like a diva. Why do you bother going to the rehearsals if I'm not there?" "I feel I have a duty to be present; however, we can't rehearse the scenes with the tenor." "Well, you know how it is," he said. "I just got married. I'm beginning with my wife." Pir-ipi-p, pir-i-pi-r. "And so I have no time for rehearsals." He didn't know the operas. In Favorita I turned my back to the audience and whispered the correct words to him while he sang totally different ones. Barbiere no longer was the Barbiere of Rossini but the Barbiere of Di Stefano [laughs]. I define him as "genius and excess." His was a voice of genius, but he was so intemperate, especially in his offstage life. He knows this is what I have labeled him.

SZ: What happened to Di Stefano's voice?

GS: He never acquired a technique. He says he was supposed to use his voice just as the Eternal Father gave it to him. He opened his mouth, drew in a breath and out poured those gorgeous tones. That's the way he was, and the public accepted him like that.

SZ: Was Del Monaco as unprofessional as...?

GS: He was very professional, very organized, very controlled, very, very serious, very determined in everything he sang. And he always had that trace of the glacial, as I called it. He was so secure. He was the last heroic tenor we have had.

SZ: Corelli wasn't a heroic tenor?

GS: He wasn't heroic, but it was a beautiful voice.

SZ: Was Corelli as unprofessional as Di Stefano?

GS: Di Stefano never was professional at all. Corelli always was professional. His problem was that he was insecure. He always was afraid he wasn't going to make it even though his performances were stupendous. He seemed to feel guilty of flaws he didn't possess. He worried about deficiencies that for the most part were imaginary. Often, right before the "Flower Song" in Carmen, he would say, "Signora, I can't do it, I'm going away." "No, don't say that. Don't be like that. Come on, come on." And he'd begin the aria, ending it with that high note that would bring down the house.

SZ: What is your opinion of Del Monaco's and Corelli's vocal techniques?

GS: Del Monaco devised a technique of his own, for his capabilities, including vocalises and a study I would call inhuman, because to resist, given the manner in which he sang, is something that verges on the inhuman. I asked him, "How can you possibly sing like that?" "No, Giulietta," he said. "You should sing the way I do; you should push the way I do." I told him something I cannot repeat here. "If I pushed the way you do, I don't know what might happen." I can't repeat it, but I said it to Mario, "No, my dear, you dig deep inside you, whereas I do it this way." The truth was he wanted to dig down into his body for maximum resonance. I don't know what that man was made of. Everyone said, "He'll last for a year or two"--but look how many years he lasted, because he was able to resist, in a way that only can be called superhuman! We all were open-mouthed: "How can he resist, how does he do it?" And he was relatively slim--not a big man. He must have had vocal cords of steel. His breathing method was that of a man. They are constructed in a different way. And so while we women tend to do this [pull in at the diaphragm], they do this [push out at the diaphragm]. In fact they all are rotund, because with time they form a strong, powerful musculature around the midriff, on account of the fact that they push out in order to support. I can't even speak if I breathe like that.

SZ: But how are men built differently, as far as breathing is concerned?

GS: Being constructed in a different way, they have organs we don't [laughs]. They can't breathe as we do, because they--you--are built in another way inside!

SZ: But not in the lungs.

GS: [Laughs] Yes, I know. The breathing, however, starts from here [demonstrates]. If you, instead of doing this, do that, you will understand that the respiration--the system, the technique--is turned upside down.

SZ: Del Monaco and Corelli both studied with a certain Arturo Melocchi, who went to China where he learned a particular mechanistic technique from a Russian and brought it to Italy. Corelli modified the technique. Del Monaco lowered his larynx a lot, whereas Corelli raised and lowered his larynx. Can you compare and contrast the approaches?

GS: They are two different ways of singing and two different mentalities, which means a lot. Corelli went up into the high notes--in Ugonotti, for example, he sang the high C just as I did. His was a very wide-ranging voice. But Del Monaco always had difficulty. Corelli also could emit a sweet, soft phrase. Del Monaco, no. Because rubber bends. Corelli's was a normal respiration. His singing was all on the breath. Studying a little with Melocchi, naturally Corelli modified the technique to his particular capabilities, so that it worked well for him.

SZ: Can you compare the Don José of Corelli, Del Monaco and Di Stefano?

GS: They are three completely different things. Di Stefano, for example, was amazingly spontaneous. There was everything in that voice--the dramatic quality, the color, the expression! Corelli was more thought-out, more studied. He always was afraid. However, he could deliver when the chips were down. He could drive the audience wild. I remember his "Flower Song": it was something unforgettable. So was Di Stefano's. Also Del Monaco's. They all were different. Corelli, for example, in performing the role, was careful never to touch me. He was too scared. "No, signora," he said. He always called me "signora." As a matter of fact I spoke with Corelli today [October 13, 1996]. He is a dear colleague and a wonderful person. Di Stefano, on the other hand, always managed to hurt me. I always was covered with bruises, scratches and cuts, because that's the way he was--a real Sicilian. He did it unconsciously.

Del Monaco also was a highly passionate Don José, complementing my own portrayal. We didn't talk much, but we understood one another. And yet he never hurt me--never a bruise, a scratch or anything even though he was a very physical Don José. He threw me to the ground, knelt down, bent over me. We were very effective together--an intense, passionate couple--and audiences were excited. Yet, despite his apparent violence toward me, his apparently brutal treatment of me, he never caused me any pain. So you see, they all were so completely different. It's hard to compare them. No--each one acted according to his nature.

SZ: If an impresario were to ask you to perform Carmen, which would you choose?

GS: I would be equally happy with any of them. I admired them, loved them--as friends, naturally. We were very close, like a family. When we saw each other, it was a real pleasure. I hugged them since I'm very expansive. I always was insecure when I sang, because I always was worried about not being on a high enough level to satisfy the audience. This brought on a kind of anxiety. And then when it was over, I thought, "Perhaps I didn't deserve this applause; I could have done better." It's just my character. If you told me the tenor was to be Di Stefano, I'd say "Benissimo"--wonderful, that's fine!" or Corelli--"Benissimo!" There were others--I don't remember all their names at this moment. I admired them all, I respected them--not all in the same way but each in his own way. I always was content, because I knew I worked well with them. Each one had his particular virtues. And I admired each one for his.

Simionato declared to Elisabetta Romagnolo, author of the monumental Mario Del Monaco: Monumentum aere perennius (Parma: Azzali Editore s.n.c., 2002, p. 427), "Mario had such charisma that I felt it profoundly, so much so that I would have done anything with him, had he asked me to."

The Bel Canto Society site includes a forty-eight-page PDF file, Opera Fanatic: Biographies, Opinions--and Dish, linked to at the bottom of the page devoted to the film. In addition, the site's listings for CDs and downloads with five of the ten divas--Frazzoni, Gencer, Pobbe, Olivero and Simionato--include extended excepts from their interviews.

The divas in the film divide into two groups. The first group strove not to vary tone color for dramatic expression but to maintain consistency of tone color for the sake of musical line. Half the divas--Barbieri, Cerquetti, Cigna, Pobbe and Simionato--belong to this group (as do virtually all singers today). From their point of view, a change in tone color compromised musical line as much as a break in legato. That they didn't vary tone color didn't prevent them from being emotionally intense. They relied on good diction and musicianship to serve librettists and composers.

For the second group, varying tone color for dramatic expression was paramount. Adami Corradetti (as a performer but not as a teacher), Frazzoni, Gavazzi, Gencer and Olivero are in this group. To my ears, these performers succeeded in changing tone color without damaging the musical line and thereby heightened emotional impact. The singers in the first group acted with their faces and bodies. The singers in the second group also acted with their voices.

One can find counterexamples. Frazzoni and Gencer didn't always come alive interpretively. Cerquetti sometimes inflected her tone, most notably on a live recording of Ballo. Cigna on some occasions colored hers as well.

The chest-voice discussions arose in connection with my question, "Of what does expressive singing consist?" Why should opera lovers care about whether or not someone sings with chest voice? Because the affective consequences are very great. My viscera aren't satisfied if chest isn't used in certain passages, the phrase "un gel mi prende" (Norma), for example.


Ira Siff, reviewing in Opera News:


"In the 1980s, any rabid New York opera fanatic worth the title would
either stay in on Saturday nights or run home from social obligations to
tune in to WKCR, Columbia University's radio station, where one could
experience opera mania unabashed and unashamed. Stefan Zucker played rare
recordings, had phone-ins wherein opera fans expressed their strong
opinions, and presented guests of the caliber of Alfredo Kraus, Carlo
Bergonzi, Grace Bumbry and a series of interviews with Franco Corelli. I
also seem to remember Jackie Callas, Maria's sister, turning up with some
rather good tapes of herself. The show, like the divas Zucker adores, was
vivid. The host could be incisive, intelligent, infuriating, indiscreet
and insupportable. And let us not forget inimitable - that voice, both
speaking and singing, of The World's Highest Tenor. (Zucker is the
Guinness Book record-holder.)

"One of Stefan Zucker's fondest dreams came true when musician and film-
maker Jan Schmidt-Garre decided to film him touring around Italy
interviewing some of his adored divas of a bygone era, mostly postwar but
some going back to the 1920s. The film is fascinating on a number of
levels. It brims over with the passion of these women, who embody
dedication to the stage while at the same time, in some cases, displaying
egos of monumental proportions. The divas are originals, and they are on
some level mad, but in a wonderful way. For instance, when Gigliola
Frazzoni, a marvelous Minnie of the '50s, reenacts some of La Fanciulla
del West in front of a television screen that is simultaneously showing
her RAI film of the opera, she is at once hilarious and riveting - and in
truth, far more riveting than risible. There is no self-consciousness or
embarrassment, just the desperate need to communicate. Many of the brief
singer demonstrations of a line here or there are very moving, and Magda
Olivero, the last verismo soprano, does the entire Act III 'Giusto cielo!'
monologue from Adriana Lecouvreur. Zucker brings forth these wonderful
moments from his subjects, but one also has the feeling that these divas
live to relive these chapters from their lives and need little prompting.

"An intentionally layered effect comes in the form of the filming. Zucker's
journey around Italy with the crew is shot in Super 16 with a handheld
camera, so that all arrangements made with the singers on mobile phone,
rides in the van, set-ups in the divas' homes have the look of film. The
interviews are shot on video and become a separate visual entity. The
documentary presents the individual personalities of the singers in chunks
of interview footage but also ties together certain themes - What is
expressive singing? Did you ever use chest voice? Did you use voce
infantile (childlike voice) for Butterfly? - intercutting interviews to
focus on an artistic point. The chest-voice issue is a source of hilarity,
as one diva after another claims she never used such a vulgar device, a
few even illustrating the point by demonstrating a line in what is clearly
well-placed chest voice. Hearing Zucker relate the claims of her
colleagues who supposedly eschewed chest, the piercingly intelligent,
no-nonsense Turkish diva Leyla Gencer looks at him incredulously and says,
'They have short memories.'

"Zucker gets along with most of his interviewees, despite some Zucker-esque
moments; he declares his interview with Gencer 'erotic.' (She fields
skillfully.) The wonderfully entertaining Fedora Barbieri is clearly his
match when he gets a bit lewd and simply drowns him out, belting out a
canzone in a restaurant. Marcella Pobbe, on the other hand, tries to run
her interview, and the entire thing feels uncomfortable. Among the most
articulate are, of course, Gencer, Giulietta Simionato - who is pragmatic
about vocal technique and touching about the thick skin she didn't
actually possess during her long career (she looks incredibly beautiful in
her late eighties in 1998) - and Carla Gavazzi, whose career was cut short
by illness. Footage of the performers who were filmed during their careers
is intercut as well, and it is generally thrilling. Particularly
galvanizing is the little-known Gavazzi as Santuzza.

"This film is a must for opera fans - a near-religious experience for those
who adore singers of this era, and required viewing for those only
familiar with a more current crop. One wishes the terrific accompanying
booklet supplied by Zucker's Bel Canto Society back when they released the
film on VHS came with the Arthaus DVD. But it can be found on Bel Canto's
website and is worth the trouble."

Richard Dyer, reviewing in The Boston Globe

"'Opera Fanatic' is a videotape presenting divas of the past in interviews with the opera fanatic himself, Stefan Zucker, tenor ('the world's highest,' according to the Guinness Book of World Records), entrepreneur, radio personality, and raconteur.

"Director Jan Schmidt-Garre intercuts the interviews to stress thematic links and weaves in film clips showing singers in charismatic action. Divas will be divas; all of these women have presence, command and emanations--even frail Gina Cigna, interviewed at age 96--and some of them show flashes of temper too. There is something indomitable and irresistible about all of these women; they are all opera fanatics themselves, but they also led real lives that gave them something to sing about.

Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone

"Essential viewing for opera fanatics with a leaning towards the great sopranos and mezzos of the post-war years

"This bizarre but fascinating film is well worth watching for the glimpses it gives us of some of the leading ltalian-based sopranos and mezzos of the 1950s and 1960s, both in action at the time and then interviewed at their homes by the zany opera fanatic Stefan Zucker, who is also seen and heard discussing with his film crew and helpers the whys and wherefores of great singing, particularly as it relates to those taking part. Eldest of the group is the 96-year-old Cigna, frail but still with her wits about her. Olivero has much--not unexpectedly--to say about her art. So does the perfectly groomed and coiffured Simionato, in her late 80s but not looking a day over 65, and reminiscing with firmness and charm. Barbieri is enormous fun and even entertains a dinner party with a song, Pobbe rather grand and difficult (on film impressive in a duet with Barbieri from Adriana Lecouvreur).

"Most persuasive of all is the much-underrated Turkish soprano, Leyla Gencer, encountered singing the Trovatore Leonora's Act I aria from a 1957 film of the opera. The poise and magnetism of her presence is felt both in her singing and speaking. (Zucker declares she is the only interviewee he has ever found to be erotic!). Her voice expresses all Leonora's yearning in classically etched tones. A real discovery is the little-known and diminutive soprano Carla Gavazzi, caught on film as a moving Santuzza. All the artists emphasize that what they miss in singing today is expressive colouring and attention to the meaning of the text, both to create character. How right, in most instances, they are."

Lee Milazzo, reviewing in American Record Guide

"Virtually every opera lover has heard Fedora Barbieri, Giulietta Simionato, Leyla Gencer, and Magda Olivero; but precious few have actually seen these great singers. So Stefan Zucker, in a van loaded with video cameras and tape recorders, plus an expert staff, criss-crossed Italy to interview not only them, but also Anita Cerquetti, Gina Cigna, Iris Adami Corradetti, Carla Gavazzi, Marcella Pobbe, and Gigliola Frazzoni.

"The result is a riveting portrait of these singers as they are today--some still amazingly vital and active (Olivero, Barbieri, Simionato), some frail (Cigna, who managed to describe the importance of breath, and Corradetti, who died last year, making this only footage of her even more valuable), some unaffected and down to earth (Barbieri and Gavazzi), some still divas (Gencer agreed to be interviewed only at La Scala, and Pobbe acceded only after three attempts and then still proved to be very difficult). Interspersed are brief film clips and 'sound bites' that allow us to see and hear them as they were yesterday.

"Always armed with an appropriate gift, usually flowers or sweets, Zucker drew from his subjects a wide variety of opinions even as he concentrated on two themes, the decline of expressive singing in the present and the employment of the chest voice in the past. 'Never' use the latter, insisted Barbieri, offering a revealing example from Falstaf; Simionato agreed. Nonsense, countered Gavazzi, insisting that they all fell into that practice. On a different matter, Gencer says she immersed herself so totally in a role that she wept on stage. Simionato, who says she would not become a singer if she had her life to live again, emphasizes creating beautiful legato--and when she demonstrates, you are carried back 40 years. Olivero performs the monolog from Adriana Lecouvreur and bursts into song at the conclusion, proving that at 88 she is still a more commanding artist than sopranos half her age.

"Of course, a few shreds of gossip enliven the proceedings, such as Simionato's statement that she had enemies who kept her in small roles for years, or Pobbe's initial desire to discuss her affair with Nicolai Gedda and her later refusal to speak about it on camera, or Barbieri's dismissal of a particular sexual stereotype. Don't think that this brief summary has covered everything in the tape."

"This film is dominated by deeply human expressions and unbridled emotions."--Christine Lemke-Matwey, Süddeutsche Zeitung full review

"'Opera Fanatic' is dishy, impudent, fond, quite funny. The divas are each lively, if sometimes cantankerous, company. Tech aspects are polished; color lensing captures the timeless look of Italian cityscapes."--Dennis Harvey, Variety full review

"New York opera tenor and intellectual Stefan Zucker has orchestrated this fascinating documentary about long-forgotten opera divas. Visiting them in Italy, Zucker poses some difficult and emotional questions to some of the most fascinating prima donnas of all time. Shot with electronic and Super-16 cameras, Opera Fanatic provides an utterly compelling look at both an oddly fixated opera fan and some extraordinary stars who have passed their prime."--ifilm

"These faded divas still recall their arias, the inflection of a note and every slight from every colleague. And they're still as catty and competitive as you'd expect from the women who invented the term diva."--David Stabler, The Oregonian

"Stefan Zucker's interviews with ten divas who had major mid-century careers concern vocal, technical and interpretive perceptions rather than biographical fluff. Prior to most of the interviews, film clips of the divas involved, beautifully restored in both sound and picture, are spliced in. The tape, a 'must' for students, will prove of great interest to professionals and thoughtful opera aficionados."--Paul Turok, Turok's Choice, The Insider's Review of New Classical Recordings

"What emerges is not a comprehensive study of expressive singing, but proof that devoting one's life to the opera means residing in a histrionic world where the banal niceties of our normal existence do not apply. The lines between the singing heroines captured in the riveting 40-year-old film clips and the women who illuminated those characters disappear quickly.

"You'll find endless hilarity--and yes, inspiration--in this flick, even if you've never sat through one note of Don Giovanni."--Kurt B. Reighley, "Two Ears and a Tale: Opera Fudge," Seattle Weekly

"The Prague International Film Festival called this documentary by Jan Schmidt-Garre 'delightful and infuriating, superficial and profound.' That hits the nail right on the noggin. Stefan Zucker is a New York opera fanatic with a vast encyclopedic knowledge of voice. He loves these old ladies so much that he gets great flirtatious answers from Fedora Barbieri (who offers to spank him), sophisticated sneers from Leyla Gencer, common sense from Giulietta Simionato, charm galore from Carla Gavazzi, passion and pathos from Anita Cerquetti and downright hostility from Marcella Pobbe. The enclosed booklet offers even more dish. Perhaps 'Opera Fanatic' is really for pure opera filberts, but anyone could enjoy this give-and-take."--T. Hashimoto, San Francisco Examiner

"The eccentricities of the old ladies and the originality of their visitor Stefan Zucker make Opera Fanatic into an entertaining road movie in which surely not only opera lovers will take pleasure."--Schwäbische Zeitung

"The film is especially fascinating because Zucker, with his singular high voice, is not a distant observer: portraying the true fan almost to excess, he partakes in any and all eccentricities in order to coax the ladies into revealing anecdotes from their careers or abstruse theories about singing."--Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"The film contains interviews worth seeing and hearing, also seldom seen excerpts of worthwhile historical sound and film documents. There are intelligent questions that receive illuminating answers, sprinkled with gems that one will never forget."--Dieter David Schotz, Opernwelt

"With clashing colors and surging romantic music, director Jan Schmidt-Garre paints the picture of a forgotten epic, with obsessive people and extreme feelings. An ironic love-filled bow before loquacious elegance, bitchy entrances and the heartfelt warmth of the decadent yet vital ladies. A handkiss of a film with a twinkle in the eye."--Peter Krutsch, Leipziger Volkszeitung full review

"This eccentric tale of a classic New York character who travels through Italy to pay homage to the divas of his youth is more than a pedagogical treatise. Even though it is amusing as well as informative, this documentary tells us more about the nobility of human character in its various forms."--Statement of the Jury IMZ, Vienna TV Award, 2000

"I just received 'Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas' and, after having watched it, I couldn't stop thinking of the people I know who would get a kick out of seeing it.The absolutely delightful interviews cover the divas' views concerning careers in singing, singing techniques, and the world of opera. And it allows a glimpse of diva-dom. Beyond the dialog, some of which is rather risqué, there are also many moments of historical operatic excerpts. Plus there are some great vocals that take place over dinner and wine. Zucker is great fun to watch and hear."--John Shulson, The Virginia Gazette

"In 93 fascinating minutes, the artists share their private and professional lives as well as their wisdom and singing voices. Their demonstrations and discussions of vocal technique could be master classes. In film clips from their heyday they are sublime. Zucker's knowledge and humor are responsible for much of the video's success, and, as the divas talk about rivals, roles and critics, there's plenty of temperament. (Marcella Pobbe is asked which singers have impressed her most and she recoils at the very idea of mentioning anyone's singing but her own.)"--Hal de Becker, Las Vegas Weekly

"'Opera Fanatic' is a warm melancholy work, a piece about longing for a lost time."--Münchener Tageszeitung

"The tape comes with an informative thirty-two-page booklet that includes biographies of all the singers interviewed [the booklet is out of print but available for free on our site], the name of Pobbe's Met lover, Barbieri's diatribe against Simionato, and Cerquetti's explanation for her premature retirement.

"Some of the rare film sequences on this video haven't been seen in over forty years. This is a video that you will want to watch repeatedly to relive the memories of these great artists of the twentieth century."--Robert Prag, The Opera Quarterly full review

"Unplug the phone before you put this tape on, so you, like Pobbe, can say, 'I didn't make mistakes.'"--William R. Braun, Opera News full review

Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas has been screened at the Prague International Film Festival, where it won second prize out of 120 entries, the Munich International Documentary Film Festival, where it won a prize, the Leipzig Documentary Film Festival, the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival (San Francisco), and the Melbourne International Film Festival. The Bavarian State Opera showed the film at Munich's Cuvilliés-Theater with Frazzoni, Pobbe, Simionato and Zucker as guests of honor. They were interviewed.

Opera Fanatic was screened by Filmmuseum Frankfurt, The Mannes College of Music and New York's Museum of Modern Art. Zucker spoke. Opera Fanatic also was shown at the auditorium of the Amici del loggione (the La Scala boxholders association), where the Olivero segment had been filmed. The members then voted to choose their favorite diva in the film: Pobbe.

The film has been broadcast in Austria (on ORF and 3Sat), Switzerland and Germany (on 3Sat), Poland (on PT), Estonia (on ETV), Finland (on YLE), Norway (on NRK), Sweden (on SVT), the U.K. (on Arts World) and in the U.S.A. (on CUNY).

Comments from Our Customers

"I received my latest shipment of tapes which included two Alfredo Kraus, Ten Tenors, Six Great Basses and Magda Olivero: The Last Verismo Soprano. Included with this package was what I wisely saved for dessert--'Stefan and the Divas.' What a coup--what courage! Going into the lion's den is one thing--but the monkey house too. Certainly your crew and you deserve a special place!!! Loved the whole tape--but Marcella Pobbe and Leyla Gencer brought verismo into perfect focus. What they refused to say or admit is exactly the magic of their mystique--thanks, thanks, thanks."--Ray Schwede, Middle Village, NY

"I bought Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas for my husband's birthday and he was not disappointed. What wonderful entertainment, we laughed and cried--how touching to see these great women and how charming Stefan is with them (not always an easy task). It will be a treasured part of our growing collection."--Louise Jeffery, Tonbridge, Hildenborough, Kent, England

 

Use the links below for photos and articles about each diva inOpera Fanatic. Or download all the articles and photos at once, using PDF format below.

Adami Corradetti  

Barbieri

Cerquetti  

Cigna

Frazzoni

Gencer

Gavazzi

Olivero

Pobbe 

Simionato

Go to an essay on the history of chest voice and the divas’ debate about it.

Go to an essay on vocal technique.

Download the complete essay, including the chest voice and vocal technique articles, in PDF format: 
Opera Fanatic: Biographies, Opinions—and Dish