“To be an artist is to believe in life.”
This is the Henry Moore quote that flashes across the screen as Sing Your Own Song: An Opera Love Story begins. By using this quote, the independent documentary, directed by Anne Davis O’Neal, establishes an unofficial motto for its subject; a collective of opera singers. Meeting every Sunday for 50 years at Café 322, these singers vary greatly in age and skill level.
After the opening quote, the film begins with various members of the group sharing their original hatred for opera. Some lament how they misunderstood the power of Wagnerian sopranos, while others simply thought opera was boring. Soon after this segment though, they all also share an emotional shift that caused them to change their tune and fall in love with opera, as it were.
Many of the participants in The Mario Singers, unofficially named after their founder Mario Lalli, emphasize that performing at Café 322 gives them a sense of community. This community, paired with the obviously deep passion for singing, gives the documentary its charm. In addition, the film shares glimpses into how opera singers work on their craft, both on the amateur and professional level.
Therefore, Sing Your Own Song will potentially find its most appreciative audience in those new to the opera world. While seasoned singers would certainly find it charming, a curious outsider would find it a welcoming introduction into the mysterious world of opera. Hearing the various singers perform allows newcomers to understand that anyone can enjoy opera, no matter their skill level. The title for this film is fitting then; it is much less about the professional world of opera, and much more about how music can create community and develop individual passion, even “elitist” music like opera.
The end of the film creates a bit of drama when it is announced that Café 322 will close, but it seems a lot less dramatic within the film than it could have been. With that said, it demonstrated how an era can end but the art can stay alive. If the opening quote is accepted at its word, these artists believed life would work out, and were rewarded with a new space as a result. It would similary be easy to conclude then that the same will happen for opera overall, making it the ultimate art form to last throughout the ages.
This film has a runtime of approximately 54 minutes. It will be available for purchase within the United States at anneonealfilms.com, starting September 15th. The trailer can be viewed below.
Materials for this post were provided by the director. The views and opinions expressed here are completely my own.