Carmine Gallone’s first Casta Diva, released in 1935 to coincide with the centennial of Vincenzo Bellini’s death, is generally considered one of the most important films on opera produced in Italy. In the same year Gallone also directed an English version of the film, entitled The Divine Spark. Gallone’s 1954 remake of Casta Diva is held in equally high esteem. Critical praise, however, has not translated into sustained scholarly interest. The primary aim of the present chapter, then, is to study these three films in a comparative fashion, focusing especially on the two Italian ones. Despite evident similarities, the two versions of Casta Diva emerge as profoundly different, particularly in terms of the relationship between vision and sound. No less striking are the different uses of Bellini’s music, which in 1935 is integrated into Willy Schmidt-Gentner’s rather bombastic and omnipresent soundtrack, whereas in 1954 it is reproduced much more respectfully and “faithfully”, in accordance with the growing interest in belcanto operas during the 1950s. But the most significant differences, I argue, pertain to aesthetics and ideology. Gallone’s 1935 Italian version presents a vision of the artist as heroic manifestation of the “Italian genius”, in keeping with the Fascist support of opera as a fundamental component of national identity. In 1954 melodrama seems instead the main mode of expression. On the one hand, the crucial visual and semantic importance of the portrait of Bellini’s lover Maddalena – Gallone’s imaginative and quintessentially filmic invention – is maintained. On the other, the female protagonist shreds the sublime aura of the first version and becomes enmeshed in the mirroring process between art and life and the oppositional relationship between passion and the renunciation of love, artistic vocation, and death. Significantly, the 1954 Casta Diva shows revealing similarities with The Divine Spark. In particular, both steer clear of the progressive transfiguration of Maddalena that characterizes the 1935 Casta Diva, where the heroine’s final transformation into an ardent flame seals Bellini’s ascent to an exalted epic dimension.

From the apotheosis of ‘italian genius’ to melodrama: carmine gallone’s casta diva, in bellini on stage and screen, 1935-2020

Seminara. Graziella
In corso di stampa

Abstract

Carmine Gallone’s first Casta Diva, released in 1935 to coincide with the centennial of Vincenzo Bellini’s death, is generally considered one of the most important films on opera produced in Italy. In the same year Gallone also directed an English version of the film, entitled The Divine Spark. Gallone’s 1954 remake of Casta Diva is held in equally high esteem. Critical praise, however, has not translated into sustained scholarly interest. The primary aim of the present chapter, then, is to study these three films in a comparative fashion, focusing especially on the two Italian ones. Despite evident similarities, the two versions of Casta Diva emerge as profoundly different, particularly in terms of the relationship between vision and sound. No less striking are the different uses of Bellini’s music, which in 1935 is integrated into Willy Schmidt-Gentner’s rather bombastic and omnipresent soundtrack, whereas in 1954 it is reproduced much more respectfully and “faithfully”, in accordance with the growing interest in belcanto operas during the 1950s. But the most significant differences, I argue, pertain to aesthetics and ideology. Gallone’s 1935 Italian version presents a vision of the artist as heroic manifestation of the “Italian genius”, in keeping with the Fascist support of opera as a fundamental component of national identity. In 1954 melodrama seems instead the main mode of expression. On the one hand, the crucial visual and semantic importance of the portrait of Bellini’s lover Maddalena – Gallone’s imaginative and quintessentially filmic invention – is maintained. On the other, the female protagonist shreds the sublime aura of the first version and becomes enmeshed in the mirroring process between art and life and the oppositional relationship between passion and the renunciation of love, artistic vocation, and death. Significantly, the 1954 Casta Diva shows revealing similarities with The Divine Spark. In particular, both steer clear of the progressive transfiguration of Maddalena that characterizes the 1935 Casta Diva, where the heroine’s final transformation into an ardent flame seals Bellini’s ascent to an exalted epic dimension.
Italian version, English version, Epic dimension
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/542100
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