We all know that sometimes it's O.K. to agree to disagree with people whose opinions we usually respect; in Arturo Toscanini's case Opera Chic has long ago learned to take the late maestro's opinions with the proverbial pound of salt (wait).
A new docu-drama, Toscanini: In His Own Words, where a director has worked together with the Toscanini family to create a film intercut with historical footage that finds the source of its dialogue in 150 hours of recordings that the Maestro’s son Walter secretly made, Nixon-like, of home conversations. The director has used the tapes as the basis for the script; even if the actor who plays Toscanini does so with a pretty hammy accent the sort of which we're accustomed to hear from TV chefs from Italian restaurants in Buffalo, NY, the content sounds pretty cool:
More fondly, Toscanini speaks of composer Alfredo Catalani, whose La Wally also inspired the names of Toscanini’s second child. “He was a most simpatico spirit, and he had the most beautiful eyes, which women could not resist. I recall that Puccini became jealous towards Catalani, often wondering how a man could write so many beautiful melodies. I still play his lovely song ‘The Dream.’”
How someone as deeply musical as Toscanini could mistake Catalani's lowbrow banality for talent, and could not appreciate Puccini's astonishing genius for orchestration, is indeed a tragic mystery of the maestro's life we'll never be able to solve.
And by the way, Opera Chic would still be very curious to know how he actually played the cello. Because you know, maybe -- just maybe -- Toscanini kinda sucked at it.