Quartet by Giuseppe Verdi and Dustin Hoffman

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Dustin Hoffman should have called him.(Photo: Casa di riposo, Milan)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Dustin Hoffman should have called him.(Photo: Casa di riposo, Milan)

Many years ago a film crew went to the Casa di Riposo, the home for elderly musicians established by Giuseppe Verdi shortly before his death in 1901. Verdi left the royalties from his operas to  the Instituto per musicisti that administered the home in his name. Many an indigent elderly musician was cared for in comfort thanks to Verdi and the royalties from Rigoletto, Aida, La traviata etc.

A documentary called Tosca’s Kiss showed life inside Verdi’s Casa and made stars anew out of a feisty bunch of elderly divas, tenors and their friends, forty years after their various prime years:

Sara Scuderi had been a star between the two world wars, and when this was filmed in 1980 was a star still.

Dustin Hoffman must have seen and admired Tosca’s Kiss. He makes his debut as a film director with Quartet. This time the elderly artists are British and instead of downtown Milan we have the bucolic English countryside. I have yet to see Quartet. I will,  and I expect to enjoy a good cry. I wonder how imperious if elderly Italian musicians transform into Brits.

If you watch Tosca’s Kiss you encounter real-life artists  who are “between engagements”-it may be fifty years since their last appearance but it ain’t over til it’s over. They have a wonderful disdain for one another, and the favorite line is “I thought you were dead.”

I look forward to Quartet.  The most shocking fact about this new film thus far is reading that Dustin Hoffman is 75! I remember well being tossed out of The Graduate at age 12 at the Lexington Cinema. (I never saw the ending til I was in my thirties)

Verdi’s Casa di riposo remains. Our fiends from Tosca’s Kiss are all in heaven now, one resenting the presence of other. You should visit Verdi’s greatest achievement. I’m sure the current residents will give you what-for.

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