This long weekend of films is part of a collaboration between the Barbican Cinema and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama to celebrate the culmination of a large-scale project on screen adaptations of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. Originally serialised in a French newspaper in 1909–10, this well-loved novel has inspired creative responses in every part of the world, including no fewer than fifty films made as far apart as China and Argentina. Funded by an International Networks grant from the Leverhulme Trust, a team of researchers from countries all over the world has spent the last three years working on the extraordinary examples of cultural transfer that these films represent.
This team will be in London 15-17 June to present some of their findings and to host a symposium, a series of public talks and screenings, and the performance of a new score for the famous 1925 Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. Pride of place will be given to the 1962 Hammer Horror remake which, alongside a certain celebrated piece of musical theatre, represents Britain’s contribution to the worldwide Phantom of the Opera phenomenon.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The earliest surviving cinematic adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera: the very first, made in Berlin in 1916, is unfortunately now lost. Featuring the ‘man of a thousand faces’, Lon Chaney, it was the foundation of what has recently been touted as a whole new ‘Dark Universe’. Originally silent, it has been remade with dialogue (in 1930) and over the years supplied with numerous scores. Here it is accompanied by the very latest, realised specially for the occasion by students at the Guildhall School.
See also 1925 – The Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Famously filmed on the same set as its silent, black-and-white Universal Pictures predecessor, this lush treatment of the story is surely what Technicolor was invented for. The sound, too, is glorious, featuring fully worked-out pastiche opera scenes ‘by’ Chopin and Tchaikovsky. And alongside Claude Rains as an especially tender-hearted Phantom this period masterpiece features appearances by historic virtuoso pianist Liszt himself—not to be missed!
See also 1943 – The Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Set not at the Paris Opéra but in London, this distinctively British take on Gaston Leroux’s original was made in the heyday of Hammer Horror by its most stylish and successful director, Terence Fisher. It devoured one of the studio’s biggest-ever budgets. Herbert Lom is an authentically misanthropic Phantom, and the music—including a brand-new opera, Saint Joan—is by Edwin Astley, who composed for such diverse 60s screen classics as Civilisation and The Saint.
See also 1962 – The Phantom of the Opera.
Il mostro dell’Opera (1964)
One of a large number of more-or-less gothic productions to come out of Italy in the late 1950s and early 60s, this rare film represents an early example of literary/cinematic mash-up, in which the phantom that haunts the theatre in full evening dress is not a disfigured madman but a rather sophisticated individual who just happens to be a vampire. With its themes of homosexuality, changing attitudes to love, and theatrical tradition vs innovation, Il mostro dell’Opera also represents a fascinating insight into Italian social mores in the years before the 1968 watershed.
See also 1964 – Il mostro dell’opera.