Bel Canto Choir Vilnius Featured in Sisi & Ich Soundtrack Premiered at Berlin Film Festival

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius’ recording of the Ukrainian folk song “Shchedryk” is featured in the new biographical movie “Sisi & Ich” (English: Sisi & I) about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The film, directed by Frauke Finsterwalder and co-written by Christian Kracht, made its world premiere on February 19, 2023, in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival.

The choir and Walker+Worm Film, a German art movie production company, concluded a licensing deal in June 2022. This co-production between Germany, Switzerland, and Austria is set to hit theaters in those countries on March 30, 2023.

The movie takes viewers to the late 19th century when Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary – known as Sisi (Susanne Wolff) – lives in an aristocratic all-female commune in Greece. Countess Irma is sent there to be Sisi’s companion, and she is captivated by the eccentric and extravagant recluse. But the outside world is reaching out to break Sisi. And no matter how much Irma and Sisi resist, in the end, they are left with only one fatal path that will bind the two women together forever.

Sisi & Ich
Sisi & Ich
Sisi & Ich
Photos provided by Walker+Worm Film

“Shchedryk” is itself a treasure of Ukrainian heritage. It is a Ukrainian New Year’s song, arranged by composer Mykola Leontovych in 1916, and tells a story of a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring. The song is based on a traditional folk chant whose language was thought to have magical properties.

Following a performance of “Shchedryk” by the Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall in 1922, it was adapted as an English Christmas carol, “Carol of the Bells”. Since 1936, the song has become associated with Holidays worldwide. Although “Carol of the Bells” uses the melody from “Shchedryk”, the lyrics of two songs have nothing in common.

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius recorded “Shchedryk” in 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania. It is published on the choir’s Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music accounts, and the choir’s live performance of the song from 2010 is available on its YouTube channel.

Sisi & Ich

The deal with Walker+Worm Film is Bel Canto Choir Vilnius’ second major music licensing deal. In 2018, the choir signed an agreement with Sunny Television Productions, the production company behind the cultic-classic U.S. TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, to license the choir’s performance of “Air on the G String” by J.S. Bach. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, featuring Danny DeVito, is one of the longest-running, most liked, and critically acclaimed comedy TV series. Critics and viewers have heaped praise on the show and included it on all-time best TV series lists.

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius is currently finalizing its third music licensing deal with a movie production house from Hong Kong.

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