Opening 21 Apr 2022
Director Jan Schmidt-Garre introduces three successful female opera singers: Asmik Grigorian from Vilnius, Lithuania, Barbara Hannigan from Waverley, Canada, and Ermonela Jaho from Tirana, Albania. We experience them during practice sessions as they evolve into perfect roles, singing in Pelléas et Mélisande by Debussy or Symphonie No. 4 by Mahler, or La Traviata by Verdi. I counted 16 different operas presented in Paris, Munich, Salzburg, Göteborg, etc., where he visits them for interviews. They share their experiences and opinions in English, German, Italian, and Albanian with subtitles. Schmidt-Garre comes to Hamburg to talk to Asmik Grigorian who is preparing her performance of Tchaikowsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Elbphilharmonie.
This is a valuable film full of information, which will encourage even non-opera fans to become more appreciative of this art. Schmidt-Garre presents what the singers are doing, how they do it, and how it affects the listener. The title Fuoco Sacro means sacred fire, in this case the sacred fire of song. Rarely do we see the artists on stage at actual performances, but often right before they go on stage; three times we hear the enthusiastic applause of an audience; we see an audience only once. Jan Schmidt-Garre could rely on his personal experiences as he has also directed operas. He encourages the singers to describe a day before a premiere or even the last second before stepping on stage. I would have liked to discover how Grigorian, Hannigan, and Jaho realized their careers would be opera. Did music influence their childhoods? Perhaps information for a second film? Schmit-Garre said that he had selected two participants and then considered adding a man to the group of two women, but he “didn't find any man with the power.” ARTE is a sponsor, so perhaps we will eventually have the opportunity to view the film on television, as well as in the cinema. Ermonela Jaho was a guest in Hamburg, starring in Madame Butterfly by Puccini and Barbara Hanningen was performing and directing in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, right before the opening of Fuoco Sacro. (Becky Tan)