Film Lounge: Quartet


The directorial debut of Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman / German premiere

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Cecily (Pauline Collins), Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and Wilfred (Billy Connolly), residents in a home for retired opera singers, are gearing up for the annual concert in honour of Verdi's birthday, due to be held on 10th October. Opera star Jean (Maggie Smith), Reggie's ex-husband, arrives and creates a stir by playing the diva and refusing to appear on stage with the others during the upcoming concert. The big night, so looked forward to by so many, is fast approaching and Cecily, Wilf and Reggie cannot go onstage without Jean. Verdi's opulent melodies form the background music to this intriguing romp.

The setting for “Quartet” is modelled on a famous location – the Casa Verdi in Milan, a home for the elderly founded by Verdi himself. In 1896, moved by the tragic ends suffered by a number of successful singers, who found themselves destitute in old age, Verdi founded La Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, the Milan residence known today as the Casa Verdi. The establishment affords 60 singers and musicians a retirement free from financial worry. Shortly before his death, asked what he considered his greatest achievement, Giuseppe Verdi is said to have replied: “My rest home for the elderly in Milan”. Shrewd investment has ensured that the home is still in operation today. In 1984 it came to international prominence as the subject of “Il Bacio di Tosca”, a documentary by the Swiss director Daniel Schmid.

“Quartet” is also one of the events marking the bicentenary of the brilliant composer's birth in October 1813.