British actress Pauline Collins pays lip service to Verdi in Dustin Hoffman’s new film Quartet.

It’s always a risk producing a film that requires actors to learn an instrument. Think of Russell Crowe’s valiant attempt at learning the violin for  Master and Commander (who could ask for a better teacher than Richard Tognetti?), or Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman wielding instruments in the recent film  A Late Quartet. Even with Hollywood’s most consummate professionals, any discerning movie buff may get the feeling that there’s something not quite right…

Pauline Collins is very much aware of the difficulty actors face in appearing to be convincing musicians. In Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut,  Quartet, she plays Cecily Robson, a retired opera singer. “You take a lifetime to train as an opera singer,” she says humbly. “You can’t take four actors with moderately adequate voices and make them into opera stars.”

Collins came to film later in her life after a successful stage and television career (she had a memorable role in  Upstairs Downstairs and later starred in the one-woman-play and film  Shirley Valentine). While Collins has never sung on stage, she’s no stranger to the opera world. “I’ve always liked to sing. I come from a family who sang songs round...

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now