Tosca's Kiss (1984) - full transcript

Meet the inhabitants of the "Casa di Riposa" in Milan, the world's first nursing home for retired opera singers, founded by composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. In his documentary film Tosca's ...



Milan, winter 1984

Hello? Casa Verdi.

Maestro Puligheddu is out.

I'll pass on the message.

That's a thought.

For the past 22 days we've been trying...

We can't go down now.

They're filming us.

Room 52?

Third floor.


Then it's the second floor.

Up those stairs.

Merry Christmas.

What's that you're practising?

I've known that off by heart for years.

I'm just playing it through.

The slave chorus.

Poor things.

To think that such things still exist...

You gave me 200.

I didn't have any lire.

You gave me 200.

I thought they were mine.

I didn't have anything.

I've lost 150.

We'll leave the cards here.

See you later. Goodbye.

Now you know how

it should be developed.

The same notes in a plagal cadence.

You sing them at the finale

and use the leitmotiv

as introduction.

Are your legs aching?

And how! All the time.

You end up feeling tired

and nothing seems to succeed.

"No, I wouldn't say "nothing"."

With good intentions, my dear,

you can overcome your tiredness.

Look at the way you're sitting.

St. Anthony be praised!

"G. Verdi, "Guglielmo Tell","


I want you to develop

these melodies somewhat...


Here comes the great Signora Scuderi,

interpreter of Verdi and Puccini.

Come a little closer.

I like her very much.

She's on my floor, by the way.

We're always discussing art and music,

sing a piece together,

or just pretend...

It's fun, just pretending.

It keeps you young.

What do you sing together?

Cavalleria, Manon...

It depends on the day and on one's voice.

That's the way it is.

You have a lovely voice, too.

Signora is the last

of the romantics.

I'm glad to have achieved my goal.

I gave everything I had.

What do you sing?

Many things.

Sing something for us.

I'm not in the mood.

"G. Puccini, "Tosca", atto 2."

I have experienced art and love

but no one have I harmed.

Nearly better than Callas.

Many a sorrow has my hand

soothed in secret.

The orchestra, too...

Forever in true faith

I lifted up my prayer

to the holy altar,

decorating it with flowers.

Is this my recompense,

oh Lord,

in my hour of pain?

Really wonderful.

Thank you. It was nothing.

It was very difficult.

We are satisfied

with simpler pieces.

I believe this is the way?

Goodbye to you all.

When they reopened Verdi's grave in 1951

I had the good fortune

of seeing his embalmed face.

It was quite normal,

the skin was a little dark,

but his beard and hair

were white as snow,

like the picture in the office.

This is the assembly hall,

where the board of directors meet

in order to discuss all the problems

of the house.

This is the second sacred place,

the first is the crypt, where the mortal

remains of the maestro are preserved.

This is where the masterpieces

of art are kept.

Boldini's original portrait.

One is reminded here

that the Casa Verdi

results from the meeting together

of two worlds of ideas, those of

Giuseppe Verdi and Giuseppina Strepponi.

This occurred during the last years

of their lives.

Giuseppina Strepponi died

3 years before the maestro.

They wanted to set up something

to remember them by,

and to help all those musicians

who, as he used to say,

were not as lucky as I was.

Verdi was something special,

a humane person..

This house

is the proof.

After Falstaff was finished

he wanted to build this house.

He was very interested in it.

He supervised the construction

together with Boito the architect


This is my finest achievement.

The slave chorus...

how often did we sing that!

Things come to an end, are forgotten.

And then we talk about them

as if nothing had happened in between.

Why do you show the cane?

It helps me to remember.

People will think you're fragile.

Put it down on the chair.

This is Tosca's cane.

I want them to see it.

The house has been full of life

ever since. For the last 83 years.

It was opened in 1902.

Verdi died in 1901.

It supported itself for many years

on his author's rights.

In this way he looked after

the house and its occupants.

However, the rights expired

20 years ago.

Life has been difficult since then.

We who run the house

whish to keep up the standard

of hospitality to which the

elderly musicians have been accustomed.

But an empty Treasury

and the high cost of living

make things extremely difficult.

Casa Verdi needs the help

and the solidarity of all those

who love Verdi and his music.

These are theatrical people...

With their mannerisms...

and little faults.

With their artistic mannerisms, for they

still consider themselves as artists.

If you have lived all your life for

the theatre, you cannot remain enclosed.

You must enjoy life.

We help them to enjoy themselves.

If they see an opera on television,

everyone criticises the tenor,

or the soprano.

That's not the way to sing.

I would have sung it differently.

Here you never live in the present.

The inmates are always talking

about the past.

The past is ever present.

I, personally, am very interested

in their past.

I am interested in their artistic life.

The places where they have sung,

the theatres where they have performed.

Many theatres.

Often here in Milan.

Many years at the Scala.

"I sang "Pagliacci" in the Teatro Lirico,"

"and "Cavalleria" in the Carpano."

Ernani in the Verdi,

Un Ballo in Maschera in the Verme.

Bonci was there...

and a number of other tenors.

Then abroad...

We used to go on tour...

Just like that.

So did I.

24 years on the stage.

No small feat.

I retired in 1945.

I sang at the Scala for many years,

at the Royal Opera House in Naples,

in Genoa, at all the great

Italian theatres, in Central America...

With all the great conductors.

We all shared

in the success.

"G. Puccini, "Tosca", atto 2"

How beautiful!

How silly of me, I almost feel

like crying. How silly of me.

I sing. I play cards.

I think of someone,

play a game of patience

and hope it comes out exactly.

If it doesn't, I say to myself:

I don't believe in it anyway,

and if it does,

I jump for joy.

Just for fun.

To pass the time.

My hands are icy cold.

I have sung in over 20 operas.

Our honoured Beniamino Gigli.


He wrote me a very nice


To Sara Scuderi,

a great artiste

with a wonderful voice,

"in memory of our Tosca in Nice.""

He couldn't have put it more nicely.

And then my dearest Verdi.

God bless him for everything

he has done for us.

He has taken away all our troubles.

Oh my God, just then

I thought I saw him smile.

"This is "Tosca"."

It was carnival time.

I put on the costume,

cane, hat, everything.

This is our poor

Prince Umberto, deceased.

This lovely portrait of Puccini

was damaged out of spite.

They broke in when I was out.


they didn't damage the face.

Who was it?

If I knew that, I'd punch

him in the face, the coward.

To do that to a lady.

How nasty.

That's the way it is, my dear.

Life repeats itself.

I am ready, Maestro.

"G. Verdi, "Nabucco", atto 3, scena 4"


The singing could be more restrained...

If you always stand there,

I can only be seen from behind.

The true atmosphere

of the theatre has disappeared.

Things have changed a lot.

Here one lives peacefully,

but the musical side

fades away imperceptibly.

The enthusiasm is missing.

The theatre came to us in the old days

and gave fantastic concerts.

No one comes any more now.

Vocal music is also disappearing.

The atmosphere is different.

There are still the Scala

and a few other theatres.

That hurts.

We see Simionato sometimes,

we used to sing together,

and Tebaldi, who made her début with me.

There was Callas, of course,

we often sang together.

"G. Donizetti, "Anna Bolena","

Maria Callas, Giulietta Simionato,

Perazzini and my wife

at the Scala.

A marvellous spectacle.

That's Pagliughi, she sings

the duet with you.

I made my début...

"In "Forza del Destino"."

"No, in "II Trovatore"."

She was my mistress

"in "II Trovatore"."

And she was my sister in

Forza del Destino.

We got married

in the end.

My wife is American.

We never sang together again.

We were together in Milan.

She sang Tosca

with Stabile,

"and I sang "Rigoletto" and "Pagliacci"."

Stabile was a great baritone.

Perhaps the best in Italy.

"We sang "Tosca" together."

She was with the Scala in Rio.

That's important, too.

Did you go with the Rex?

I went on my own.

The Rex went to New York.

They weren't going to Rio.

It was wonderful. I went with the Rex

to New York.

Very good food,

we enjoyed ourselves.

Look, with Gigli at the Scala.

Here's the whole troupe of the Cetra

"during the recording of "Lucia"."

"He's doing a duet from "Lucia""

with Pagliughi.

No, not with Pagliughi.

"It's "Rigoletto"."

I used to put all my heart

"into singing "Rigoletto"."

"That's how I felt with "Norma"."

I was always glad to sing it.

You go up that way.

I'm going this way.

"G. Puccini, "Tosca", atto 1"

Can't understand a word.

We've missed a tone.

Whether I sang? And how!

50 years on the boards.

I'm getting on for 90.

I sang in a choir.

A special kind of choir.

What do I mean by special? One had

to be good in those days. Otherwise

we were thrown out.

The opera is founded on the choir.

The soloists are capable

of singing a ballad,

but not the whole opera.

I could name you quite a few.

And the orchestra!

I sang at the Scala

for six years.

Six great seasons.

My name was written this big.

If you mention her name

to visitors,

many of them still remember

this famous name

and ask for an autograph.

That's how people are.

Why have you deserted me?

Why do you not return?

Do you understand Neapolitan?

But of course. I did 2 years...

"F.P. Tosti, "Malia""

Come on: Your glance...

I am intoxicated by your glance.

When I hear your voice

I feel as if I'm going to die.

Nearly like Caruso.

Oh no. Caruso does the opposite.

The Neapolitan way.

I am intoxicated by your glance...

You have to feel the intoxication.

Forte to start with, then piano,

and then forte again here.

The emphasis in:

I am intoxicated by your glance...

"is on "intoxicated"."

You mustn't hold the tone too long here.

It's too long.

That's the Neapolitans for you.

Switch off the light when you leave.

Very nice. Have you anything else?

Let's go in.

Signora Simionato, what does it feel

like not to sing any more?

I have no regrets.

I know

that I have made the best use

of the talents bestowed on me.

My conscience is clear.

It was ordained

that I should stop singing

in my prime,

as one says.

I am satisfied. It is better

the public remembers you as you were,

set on a pedestal.

No weaknesses, no compromise.

It is better that an artiste

retires before his public

deserts him.

I was 57 years old.

I said to myself:

I want to retire in beauty.

How many colleagues have I seen,

great artistes.

It was moving to visit them

in their theatre boxes.

It's true, Galeffi, for example,

"was singing "Rigoletto" at the age of 70."

I admired him, but I said to myself:

I hope I never get...

After a concert in Metz

I could feel my heart beating.

"And I said to myself: "That's enough.""

At the back of my third album

I wrote:

Giuseppe Manachini, 1959, the end.

No one sings.

"G. Verdi, "La Traviata", atto 1, scena 2"

Let us empty the joyous goblets

in the splendour of their fragrance.

May the ephemeral hour

be overcome in the ecstasy of desire.

Let us drink to the sweet tremors

of lover's bliss,

for this glance

doth pierce the heart.

I lived solely for my art,

the stage, the performance.

It was my passion. You'll find me

singing two hours after my death.

There are a lot of serious women here.

People tend to say:

Oh, she was an artiste. That's wrong.

We know the meaning of life.

We weigh it out, gram for gram.

I learnt to play the harp

at the Milan academy of music.

I got my diploma in 1920,

and one in 1923 for the chromatic harp

with crossed strings,

like a piano, but without pedals.

I gave concerts and lessons

up until 1930.

Then I specialised in theory.

I had hundreds of pupils.

World-famous ones.

Conductors, soloists...

The director and 7 professors

of the academy of music were my pupils.

Every musician needs to have theory

as a basis.

It teaches you to set the pace,

where to put the stress, rhythm...

Where would we be if the interpreters

had not enjoyed

a theoretical musical training?

This is the key to understanding.

For example: If one man speaks German,

another French, and yet another English,

they do not understand each other.

But with a basic musical culture

one can make oneself

understood perfectly.

Music is a universal language.

You know what I mean?

Have I made myself clear?

Even the newspapers thrash out

the same old phrases.

But if we listen to a few bars

of a certain music,

it touches our hearts.

And this state of excitement remains,

robbing us of our sleep.

"G. Puccini, "Tosca", atto 2"

That's quite an effort

if you're out of practice.

Remember what the doctor said.

But what if I have to sing!



Come and visit me tonight.

2nd floor. Room 49.

I have a bedroom

and music studio all in one.

Too high!

It's really rather high.

It's not the right pitch.

The first one was right.

What do you think?

I hope you didn't

record that.

Mind the step!

I'll switch on the light.

Open the suitcase, Della.

What have we got here?

"The cape from "Rigoletto"."

That's naphthalene.

The coat.

"From "Gioconda"."

Do you want to see the barber?

You had that made in Spain.

Yes, in Spain.

All that used to be gold.

It's worn off

over the years.

Look, isn't it lovely!

I've made a mistake.

That's Rigoletto. My goodness!

I'm a little mixed up.

Seeing these things again

after all those years!

When I think how I sweated

in that jacket!

You sweated a lot in Rio.

Do you want to see me in it?

I want to put it on.

My dear Verdi!

I had to roll about on the floor.

The choir were giving me hell.

How often did you help me get dressed!

This is how I looked.

With these trousers

and a huge humpback.

There it is.

These are the sleeves.

All embroidered.

Have you come to pay me a visit?

That makes me very happy.

Me too. That's why I came.

Come and sit down.

I know you like this chair.

Comfortable, isn't it?

Yes, quite.

How are you?

My health is all right,

but I'm feeling rather sad.

Don't talk to me about feeling sad.

I wish I could see my son.

He's much too far away.

He promised to come soon.

They both did.

Pull yourself together!

I'm trying, but my feelings

get the better of me sometimes.

Do you dream about him?

Have I seen him?

No, dream about him!

All the time.

My son means everything to me.

Poor dear.

I'm all alone.

Papa, Mama, my sister.

They're all in heaven.

I have a nephew, he's an engineer.

He's married and has

a good job in Mexico.

Ah, in Mexico.

That's the belt.

"I wore it in "Gioconda", no it was"

"in "Andrea Chenier", I wore it"

with a sword and a huge hat.

This is the humpback

from the second and final act,

after they had killed

my daughter.

The second humpback went

with my black costume.

"This is the jabot from "Traviata"."

And this is the ever-empty purse

"from "Rigoletto"."

Come and see me at any time.

What's your room number?

I'll tell you later.

My name is on the door. Baglio-Calini.

Your door will have Scuderi on it.

That's just next door.

Then we are neighbours.

And we didn't even know it.

Neither of us knew

that we were neighbours.

My room is somewhat larger.

Your room is larger?

You'll see.

The cupboard takes up a lot of room.

I know, I have the same one.

It's a big one. It belongs to me.

Everything except for the commode.

Isn't that pretty.

It's a radio.

I like this mirror.

It switches on

when you open it.

I have a soft spot for Verdi.

Besides, I have Bellini,

he comes from Sicily, as I do.

I love Verdi

as if he were one of the family.

He's closer to us.

And then all those operas

he has bequeathed to us.

I made my début

"in Verdi's "Trovatore"."

Othello is nice, too.

I find it more stimulating.

I prefer it.

Both operas

are deeply moving.

It's not often Othello is played well.

Where do you find a good Othello?


There used to be many of them,

nowadays you're lucky to find one.

That's why it hardly gets played.

Because they can't find one.

Desdemona, on the other hand, is easy.

Anyone can sing that part.

"But "Othello" is terrible."

Iago is difficult, too.

A baritone would probably do.

Othello, that's the rôle.

"I wrote this "Little Nocturne""

when I was 11 years old.

I only obtained the author's rights

after coming of age.

It was published in America

and made quite a lot of money.

"This is "End of a Dream","

for orchestra.

I was already

professor of composition at that time.

I wrote my first opera

at the age of 19,

The White Fly.

That's the full score.

I had blonde hair then,

not white as I do now.

Here is a diploma

with the picture of Pope John,

who presided over this academy.

Let's go over to the other side.

Here are two

professional recording machines.

I improvise,

that's why I need two machines.

If one roll breaks down

I'm lost,

because you can't repeat

an improvisation.

This cable transfers it

to the other machine.

I possess over 1.000 improvisations.

I have this melody in my head

which I would like to develop further.

It's like a speaker

talking without notes

because he knows his subject.

Other people need notes.

I never made notes of any of my

thousands of compositions.

It's God's gift.

I have studied a lot,

I have 5 diplomas

from the Milan academy of music.

But I can thank the heavens

for my talent in improvisation,

which is extraordinary.

A godsend.

I don't take any merit for it.

Now I'll play you

a kind of Nocturne.

All this prestige

doesn't interest me anymore nowadays,

these documents, for example.

Here's an academic distinction.

His Excellency Puligheddu.

The academy of Belina,

it is 187 years old.

It's written here:

Why am I in the FANEL?

The FANEL is a theatrical organisation.

I didn't believe in it at first,

and then I realised that

it had many advantages.

Here I explain

why I joined.

In this one they write

about me, about my diplomas.

Has distinguished himself

in Italy and abroad

by his musical

"and didactic activities.""

This medal

was coined by the State.

There's my desk.

I write a great deal. Whole pages.

I have travelled all over Europe.

I have friends everywhere.

I cannot leave them in the dark

without any news.

There you see a picture of Christ.

From near,

the eyes seem to be closed,

but from further away they are open.

The diploma of Cenacolo,

honorary doctor.

My violin diploma,

I was given a mark of 8,50.

It's valid.

The academic diploma

of the U.S.A.

I can prove it,

it could be a forgery, after all.

These articles here with my photo...

The Order of the Knight of the Cross.

Pope Pius XII,

giving his blessing.

What are you playing?

I'm making it up.

Right now I'm composing

a nocturne.

Look at this,

this is all about me in English.

One of the best Italian musicians.

Lives in Rome.

Born in Sassari.

Composer, Kapellmeister,


All this proves

that the diploma is authentic.

Would you prefer something else?

A minuet, Neapolitan air,

an oriental melody?

You choose. And I will give

my imagination full scope.

Come on, choose.


Right, let's see.

I have to pick up the thread.

A dance, oriental colours.

A little movement is needed.

The appearance of dancing spirits.

Then back to the pathos

of an oriental panorama.

All the best.

Merry Christmas.

A Happy New Year.

"G. Puccini, "Tosca", atto 2."

Tosca, mine at last!

Help me, I'm dying!

Die, you wretch!

That is Tosca's kiss!

I'm dying!

He's dead.

I forgive him.

Can I get up?

Just a minute.

Entire Rome

trembled at his feet!

Where have they hidden her?

I want my daughter back.

Victory without triumph.

You must return her to me.

I thought he was dead.

I beg your pardon?

I thought you were dead.

May you be damned!

"G. Verdi, "Rigoletto", atto 2, scena 4"

You would barter me away,

my goods and chattels.

You would do anything for gold.

But how priceless and precious to me

is my little daughter.