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LA GRANDE AURORA (THE GREAT DAWN) is a semi-biographical account of a nine-year-old boy's musical genius. The boy is Pierino Gamba and he plays himself. Before and after making this film he conducted (often without use of a score) in major cities in Europe, attracting huge crowds and becoming a genuine musical phenomenon. In the movie he often appears to be very tense and ill-at-ease, but he has many charming, boyish moments as well. His musical abilities are discovered by Roman priest Don Terenzio (played very delightfully indeed by Michele Riccardini who had also played a priest in Visconti's 1942 OSSESSIONE). The priest encourages the boy to pursue his talent, and with the help of the boy's grandfather, to finance a public performance. A slightly contrived sub-plot features Rossano Brazzi as the boy's father, an unsuccessful composer who winds up as a clown in a two-bit Parisian circus after abandoning his wife (Renee Faure) and his son. In the exciting finale to the film, little Pierino conducts a full orchestra at Rome's Basilica of Maxentius in a gala concert that includes the Beethoven Fifth Symphony, Rossini's William Tell Overture, and, as the father makes his return, an unpublished symphonic piece of his. The "pocket Toscanini" receives thunderous applause (Gamba really did conduct) and is embraced by his now reunited father and mother and does everyone proud as a new musical prodigy is born. In real life Pierino Gamba went on to conduct as an adult, but he never rose to any real stature in the profession although one can find his recordings. After garnering some very good reviews at the time of its release, this ingratiating little film disappeared into total obscurity and is difficult to see anywhere today, even in Italy. It was directed with skill by Giuseppe M. Scotese, and I love it.
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