“TOSCA’S KISS”— Aging and the Power of Music

“Tosca’s Kiss” (“Il Baco de Tosca”)

Aging and the Power of Music

Amos Lassen

Director Daniel Schmid introduces us to the residents of the “Casa di Riposa” in Milan, the world s first nursing home for retired opera singers, founded by composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. This documentary has developed an underground cult following over the years and is a favorite among opera and music lovers worldwide. Schmid has captured a world in which these wonderful singers (many of whom had significant careers on the opera stage) re-live and re-enact their triumphant roles of the glorious past. This is a touching and often very funny film on the subject of aging and the power and timeless capacity of music to inspire. We see a microcosm of the universal problems of aging. While those who made the film showed total compassion for those who appear here, the camera was as unrelenting following “cast” from the public rooms to their own small bed/sitting rooms.

I found myself sympathizing with the plight of people who have only their memories yet their resilience is inspiring. The film hit close to home for me as I am now dealing with the memories of my lifetime. I have also lived in a place similar to this and the stereotypes we see here exist everywhere— ladies wearing once-lovely furs and fighting old age.

The retirement home lived of the rights of Verdi’s compositions, but Verdi is in the public domain now and the house survives on charity. It is moving to see these very old people, some of them hardly walking, sing and discuss singers and show the costumes of their time of glory. They still have a voice. They still vibrate from that unique love of music. It is a unique world that is extraordinarily human.

It is a special treat to watch these who were the toast of the world of opera. We see that just because someone is elderly doesn’t mean he/she has nothing to offer anymore.

The premise if the Verdi home is certainly unique– a retirement home for opera stars. They may not be on stage but they are still performing. It’s inspiring to see that, no matter what, these people are still vital and enthusiastic and entertained by the music they worked with all their lives.

This documentary nicely and poignantly captures the feel of this rest home for needy singers/musicians. The house was built by the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who referred to it as his greatest work.

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