Wladyslaw Slesicki Film Foundation


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Lost Voice. Searching for Marcella Sembrich

documentary, 75 min, in development

  • director : Radka Franczak
  • producer: Katarzyna Ślesicka
  • produced by: Film Frame (Fundacja Filmowa im. Władysława Ślesickiego) / PL
  • partners: Otter Films / PL; C41 Media / USA; Trailer and More / PL
  • support: Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej

Her talent was discovered and brought to the world by Franz Liszt. She conquered the greatest opera stages, performed in front of audiences of thousands, sang before almost all European Royalty. Among her closest friends were Otto von Bismarck, Tsar Alexander II of Russia, Puccini, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Caruso, Mark Twain, Clara Schuman.

Marcella Sembrich came from a poor Polish village family living in a region that today belongs to Ukraine. Then Dresden became her home town, and after that – Berlin. She escaped war in Europe, at the last moment, taking almost nothing with her to New York and leaving her children. She became the star of the Metropolitan Opera and remained so for 25 years.

Then at the peak of her career her younger son died. Marcella, handcuffed by obligations, didn’t go to be with him, didn’t go the funeral. She lost her voice and only after long isolation in Swiss mountains, which reminded her of her homeland, she tried to return to the stage.

Over many years, during family gatherings, Radka Franczak, the director of the film, heard stories of her crazy great great aunt who lived in America. She never realised she was the most beloved opera diva of her age. But when she tried to find out more about her she encoutered mystey after mystery. She discovered that intimate revealing and private image of Marcella Sembrich is elusive. Why did her heir, her closest friend, erase all traces of Marcella’s private life? Who was a man named Shadow, who created stories about her for the critics and newspapers? Who was the true woman, Marcella Sembrich and who was the myth invented for the media? What empowered her to follow her voice and vision, despite extreme and persistent obstacles in her life?

Sembrich story is like following footsteps disappearing in the sand – time effectively blurs the memories of her, plunging the events and the people into ever deeper oblivion.

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