A Dublin street kid is selected as a choirboy for Handel's first performance of The Messiah. His friendship helps deliver the composer from a temporary lack of self esteem and restores his great glory.
This short (52 min.) film is from Canadian producer/writer/director David Devine's Composers' Special series, and relates a fanciful story adding a child into the life of a great composer, as with the other works of the series. In 1862 Italy, young Reliana (Melissa Pirrera) visits her grandmother Rosalie (Frances Bay) to help make sauce for pasta, the two soon visited by Rosalie's best friend Martina (Lally Cadeau), with the two women joining issue over facts concerning their treasured shared relationship with the great Gioacchino Rossini, 46 years prior. Served by a strategem of fantasy, Reliana is transmitted back to 1816 where she is visible only to the composer, who is preparing for the opening of the Barber of Seville at the Argentina Theatre in Rome, and where she espies a disgruntled tenor place a curse upon the upcoming production. The curse, one must note, is supposititious, but the premiere of the Barber was in fact calamitous, and Reliana watches as the young Martina (Janne Mortil) as the opera's diva, and the young Rosalie (Margaret Illmann), as the featured dancer, each in love with Rossini, squabble and suffer as the opening night crowd hisses the ill-starred performance. Despite its brevity, the effectively scripted work manages to include many precise elements material to Rossini's life and to the Barber, including the small amount of time in which Rossini supposedly composed the work (13 days), the uneasy backing of Duke Cesarini (Tony Nardi), and the composer's reputation as a gourmet. The beautiful Illmann, for many years prima ballerina of Canada's National Ballet, dances with charm in her solo, and easily takes the acting honors with a nuanced performance exactly right for her role. There is seldom an instance when one of eight Rossini overtures is not heard, played well by the Slovak Philharmonic under the baton of Ondrij Lenard, and this Canadian/Slovak production, filmed in Istria and Slovakia, is graced by exquisite, and largely accurate, designs from the wardrobe specialists.
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