The old man finishes his phone call and steps out of the booth. As he exits, an elderly woman shuffles toward him, leaning on her cane. “Tosca!” he cries. “Tosca! Mine at last!” The woman gasps and raises a defensive fist. As the man reaches out to embrace her, she shrieks and plunges a knife through his heart. The man groans, stumbling back against the phone booth, proclaiming his death as he slides to the floor.
“That,” the woman declares, “is Tosca’s kiss!”
The scene continues briefly and then the man shifts. “Can I get up?” he calls from the floor.
We are at the Casa Verdi, a home for retired opera singers and musicians in Milan, Italy. Founded in 1896 by famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, the home is a place where musicians both remember Verdi and reside in their old age. This film, Tosca’s Kiss, a 1985 documentary, gives us a peek into the culture of this musical retirement home and the daily lives of its elderly residents.
Music is Past and Present for the Musicians of the Casa Verdi
At Casa Verdi, music is life. Here, the culture revolves around a passion for music. Each resident has been drawn to the home by a lifelong love of music. They are often found performing together or discussing favorite composers and pieces. We visit some of their rooms, which are filled with awards and mementos from their pasts. Says one man as he gestures to a photo of himself that hangs on his wall, “I wrote my first opera at the age of nineteen...I had blond hair then, not white as I do now.” Later we see the residents all gather to sing a choral piece from one of Verdi’s operas. Though they may not have everything in common, their shared, enduring love for music intimately binds them to one another.
We see a record playing in an empty room. A woman enters, smiling softly. The recording is her own from years’ past. She seats herself next to the record player, sighs contentedly, and begins to softly sing along to the recording. She knows the song by heart. The camera then zooms in on her face. She has a faraway look in her eyes, enveloped in the music and memories of her past. As the final note of the recording hangs in the air, she looks to the camera, sighs, and smiles. “How beautiful!” she says. “How silly of me, I almost feel like crying. How silly of me.” It’s in scenes like this that Tosca’s Kiss conveys the centrality of music to the residents’ pasts.
This OVID.tv Film Conveys the Universal Language of Music
“Music is a universal language,” explains one resident to the camera. “If one man speaks German, another French, and yet another English, they do not understand each other. But with a basic musical culture, one can make oneself understood perfectly.” How true! Although most viewers, this writer included, will not be able to understand the native Italian of Tosca’s Kiss, it matters little. The film and its music still speak to us, reminding us that music is meant to connect.
Revolving around a shared passion for music, Tosca’s Kiss highlights the value of music in individual human lives and the unique opportunity of connection that it offers. From the look in a woman’s eyes and the emotion in her voice as she sings, to group rehearsals, to an elderly man’s glee as he shows off old costumes and acts out his character, the residents of the Casa Verdi share their love of music with each other and with us.
The film would especially appeal to anyone with an appreciation of music, particularly those who enjoy the classical genres, such as opera, which are portrayed in the film.
Director: Daniel Schmid
Giovanni Erminio Puligheddu
For more information or to view this film, visit the OVID.tv webpage for TOSCA’S KISS.
Images courtesy of OVID.tv.
About the Author:
Adriana Moore is an aspiring editor who recently graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy. During college, she worked as a copyeditor for her school’s newspaper. A lover of music, she has sung in choirs throughout her life, most recently Women’s Chorale during college. In her free time, Adriana enjoys reading books, taking her dog on walks, and introducing her youngest sister to the world of Marvel movies.