Written by
Bob Stumpel

December 2

Ray Charles In Alta Classa (1992)

'92 TV ClassaWith Dee Dee BridgewaterWith Fausto LealiWith Lina SastriWith Toto Cutugno

Alta Classa was a series of twelve 2-hour programs broadcast by RAI Uno in 1991 – 1992. It had a dual format: the first part was a show, the second part a portrait based on interviews with the star, and with people who knew the protagonist well.
On 7 January 1992 Ray Charles was the star in a show that was also a tribute to Sergio Bernardini, a famous Italian impresario who, many years before, was the first to bring Ray to an Italian stage (and who, oddly, was also one of the producers of this show; also see this show from ’84).
To handle the 300 million lire budget, RAI Uno had the format sponsored by the municipality of Versilia (where the show was staged) and the province of Tuscany. The show was probably taped in December 1991, when Ray also did a concert in Turin.
I’ve seen a 13-minute recap of the ’92 show. It seems to have had a This Was Your Life-like format, where Bernardini surprised Ray with guests to do duets with, and other acts – all on stage. I saw snippets from I Can’t Stop Loving YouGood Love Gone Bad (with Toto Cutogno), Crying Time (with Fausto Leali), a long interview – also on stage – by Bernardini, a fragment of a gospel group, a full version of Precious Thing in a duet with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and O Sole Mio in a duet with Lina Sastri (the RAI website offers that whole song).
Other guests were Sugar, Pino Daniele, Renzo Arbore, Roberto Murali, Gassman, and Gino Paoli. The program was presented by Gianni Minà. The critic of La Stampa wasn’t too positive about the show. He asked himself, “[…] why does Minà ask the audience for applause when Ray Charles confesses to have five grandchildren? And what is the point, after a response from Ray Charles, to come up with a ‘See, even a genius has moments of emotion’?”
RAI released the show part on a 68-minute VHS (see illustration above; it’s sometimes for sale on Ebay).


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