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A film by Jan Schmidt-Garre
Opera confronts us with extremes of emotion, sometimes delivering unforgettable, life-changing experiences. Fuoco sacro (‘Sacred Fire’) seeks out singers who have the power to pierce our hearts, presenting three of them at work in the most intimate details of their rehearsals and preparations. Ermonela Jaho, Barbara Hannigan and Asmik Grigorian are watched closely as some of their secrets are revealed: how they inhabit their roles and transform words and notation on a page into that intangible but powerful magic being communicated to audiences from the opera stage. Over 90 minutes of extras are included featuring vocal warm-ups and live performances accompanied by pianists Evgenia Rubinova, Reinbert de Leeuw and Francesco Piemontesi.
Eagerly anticipated in operatic circles, Jan Schmidt-Garre’s film Fuoco sacro takes us closer than any other director has dared in exploring what lies behind those most emotionally gripping of operatic performances. Like Stanislavski, who used to spy on great actors in the hope of uncovering their secrets, we are given the privilege of observing these great singers close-up: how do they rehearse their roles, how do they spend the day before an opening night? What does their dressing room look like? What happens before the performance?
Fuoco sacro searches for those unforgettable moments in a dramatic performance but, mixed with interviews with opera directors and archive recordings, the cumulative effect of its examination of these three leading artists results in something extremely memorable in its own right. With so much rich detail in the way each singer prepares and extensive clips of their most affecting performances, this is the kind of film that can be watched numerous times, with each viewing revealing new and unexpected details.
Jan Schmidt-Garre has a background in philosophy, working during his studies as a trainee and assistant director at the Salzburg Festival, the Bayreuth Festival, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and at the Dresden Opera. In 1988 he founded the multi award-winning PARS MEDIA, a production company that has received international acclaim for its documentary and feature films focusing on music and the arts.