This film could have been a real treasure - had the interviewer been someone other than the intensely dislikable and (as an interviewer) utterly incompetent Stefan Zucker. The opportunity to interview these great divas was a rare one and, in most cases, Zucker just blew it, especially with Marcella Pobb?. Zucker asks the dumbest questions - like, "What was the highest note you ever sang?" He has some bizarre obsession with chest voice and asks most of the divas if they used it. Pobb? quite rightly throws him out of her apartment after he is foolish and impertinent enough to ask why she left the Met. (There was some unhappy love affair and obviously she wasn't going to discuss that, so why ask?)
Fedora Barbieri camps it up for the camera in an embarassing manner, making a fool of herself and Zucker at the same time. Zucker asks her a question about having sex with women in her dressing room before going on stage. But Barbieri is too thrilled with all the attention to slap him and chuck him out like Pobb? did. One wonders who has the bigger ego and who is more excited to be on camera.
The entire enterprise is an ego trip for Zucker. The title, "Stefan and the Divas," is misleading; this is mostly about Stefan, and a more unappealing subject it is difficult to imagine.
Still, there are wonderful moments with Anita Cerquetti, Giulietta Simionato, Leyla Gencer and Carla Gavazzi, when Zucker shuts up and we get a glimpse of these great singers. The segment with the ancient Gina Cigna is a disappointment just because she is so old and feeble and can hardly string two words together. One of the best moments is when Zucker tells Gencer that Barbieri and Simionato deny ever using chest voice. She looks incredulous, rolls her eyes and asks, "Questo di LORO?" ("This from THEM?") For these, and for the clips of the great Magda Olivero, the video is worth having - if you can stomach Zucker's prissy falsetto, foolish posturing, dumb questions, and irritating manner. Like Pobb?, one wants to chuck him out.
What a waste.