Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Der Zauber der Boheme

I had a batch of papers to grade this past week.  Experience taught that my emotional equilibrium might be benefited by some pleasant potential distraction.  I chose "Der Zauber der Boheme," (also known as "The Charm of La Boheme") a film I've had out from the NYPL for weeks without finding the time to watch.  The plot is billed as a parallel to "La Boheme," the draw of the film lying in its principal singers/actors, Marta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura.  Used DVDs on Amazon are outrageously expensive, but it is available as a Quicktime download directly from the Bel Canto Society.  It's a tearjerker; it could with justice be called rührselig.  With a high tolerance for the sentimentality of sentimental '30s and '40s films, and for a certain amount of secondary-character situational comedy, it's very enjoyable fluff.  (I confess that I ignored the some of the broadest bits of comedy and the most maudlin of melodrama in favor of the papers.)  Here (embedding disabled) is a clip from the finale of the opera, and the almost-finale of the film.  

It's not a piece I would necessarily recommend as film, but it was for me a happy way to expand my knowledge of opera singers chronologically backwards.  I'm pretty sure the film was supposed to be set in Paris, but everyone speaks German with a bit of a Viennese twist (which gives me warm fuzzy feelings.)  The English subtitles are both non-optional and sparse, sometimes laughably selective.  The chemistry between the two principals is palpable and winning (they would marry a year after the film's release, and remain devotedly so until Kiepura's untimely death.)  Further research led me to this 2008 Times article on Eggerth, and this retrospective CD collection covering over six decades (!!) of her singing.  Formidable.  YouTube has quite a few selections uploaded by her devotees, mostly singing jazz/swing, but also with some operetta and lieder.  I would probably watch the probably ridiculous Schubert biopic (for some value of "biopic"!) from which this appears to be taken:

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