Only superlatives could possibly do justice to Tonight We Sing, and, though excessive praise can be as meaningless as biased panning, the film is one big superlative: most wonderful, most beautiful, most magnificent. The array of talent is incredible, from the concert stage, from ballet, from the opera, each individual performer worthy of a full length movie.
Naturally, the reason for it all is the life of an impresario, director and producer, Sol Hurok. A penniless Russian immigrant, he came to America in 1910, and in ten years became the greatest showman of the age. Albeit the story is the well worn, Horatio Alger type, sensitive acting, and the interludes of line music make it a completely new experience. Even the inevitable matrimonial difficulties are touching.
Ezio Pinza, as Fiodor Chaliapin, the greatest basso of all time, seems to bring back some of the grandeur of the eccentric, boisterous Russian's voice. Singing the Coronation scene from Moussorgsky's Boris Godounov, he booms forth with amazing volume and gusto. Excerpts from Gounod's Faust also receive the same resounding treatment.
Appearing as the immortal Anna Pavlova, Tamara Toumanova convinced me that she is every bit as immortal as the great Pavlova. Delicate, sensuous, and with an unforgettable, fragile beauty, I am sure she does not have an equal on the ballet stage. She floats, rather than dances, through Saint-Saen's The Swan and Anton Rubinstein's Valse Caprice.
Roberta Peters of the Mctropolitan Opera plays Elsa Valdine and sings the duet from Madame Butterfly with the voice of Jan Peerce, superimposed on Byron Palmer. Her rendition of Sempre Liber from Verdi's La Traviata is as sensitive as it is perfect. Violinist Isaac Stern is Eugene Ysaye, who gave Hurok his first big break.
Tonight We Sing, though, is as much a triumph for the production staff as for the individual stars. Directed by Mitchell Leisen, it escapes what might have been a serious defect--a disjointed grouping of extravagant scenes. The technicolor photography perfectly suits the full, rich colors of the opera and ballet excerpts. But the greatest achievement was musical director Alfred Newman's, who effectively transported the opera scores to a film medium.
An experiment which has at last bridged the gap between Hollywood and the opera, Tonight We Sing brings more entertainment to the movie world than fifty second rate musicals.