Posted on

The Two Versions of Ave Maria

Ave Maria was shot and recorded by Itala Films in the Tobis Atelier, in Berlin, May 1936. Johannes Riemann directed. Alois Melichar conducted the orchestra of the Berlin Staatsoper. Ernesto De Curtis composed “Soltanto tu, Maria” and Melichar composed “Anima mia” for the film.

In the German version of the film Gigli does a lovely job of coloring his speaking voice. The film’s ending begins with the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria” and segues into the final moments of “Soltanto tu, Maria.” The result is exuberant. In the Italian version an actor does an excellent job of dubbing Gigli’s speaking voice. The film concludes with “Ave Maria”–the ending is sweet and delicate.

The Italian version premiered August 17, 1936, in Venice. The German version premiered August 21, 1936, in Bremen, at the Tivoli. The Berlin premiere was on August 28, 1936, at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo (today known as the Ufa Zoo-Palast).

Notes on the Audio Restoration

We have provided two separate PCM audio soundtracks for both the German and Italian versions of Ave Maria. One track is restored, the other not. Imperfections in the film prints caused pops, clicks and thumps. In undertaking the restorations our philosophy was simple: do no harm. Therefore we removed most of these disturbances but limited ourselves to reducing the impact of others, to avoid dulling the sound or changing the character of the background noise. In restoring the German version we applied broad-spectrum hiss reduction to the dialog but not the music, so as not to compromise its emotional impact. (With today’s technology, you cannot remove hiss without attenuating soft overtones as well as acoustical ambience or “space” around the sound.) The Italian version was less hissy, so we did not de-hiss it.

We believe the restored soundtracks are preferable but suggest you compare them to the unrestored tracks and choose for yourself. The main menus on each DVD make this easy.

–Stefan Zucker