Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom/Japan/USA, 1991. Warner Bros., Fujisankei Communications International, British Sky Broadcasting, County Natwest Ventures, Enigma Productions, Bountiful Film Partners. Screenplay by Istvan Szabo, Michael Hirst. Cinematography by Lajos Koltai. Produced by David Puttnam. Production Design by Attila Kovacs. Costume Design by Catherine Leterrier. Film Editing by Jim Clark.
A Hungarian music conductor (Niels Arestrup) finally achieves his dream of being hired to conduct a bold new production of Wagner’s Tannhauser. Under the new “Unified Europe”, Arestrup manages to put together an international assortment of talents (and egos), starting right at the top with a world-class soprano (Glenn Close, singing voice dubbed by the magnificent Kiri Te Kanawa) to play the lead female role. Immediately turned off by her bitchy prima donna attitude, Arestrup eventually begins a close personal friendship and later a love affair with the diva, one whose volatility ends up threatening their production. At first this classy drama is an inviting look into the world of opera, but it descends into a humdrum soap opera with very little passion to it. An unfortunate waste of a very good opportunity here, especially with a world-famous European director like Istvan Szabo at the helm.