(DeMille, 1915) Music composed by Georges Bizet and arranged by Hugo Riesenfeld.

Internationally known opera singer, Geraldine Farrar, displays her considerable acting skills as Carmen in the DeMille film which was based, not on the opera but rather on the original Merimée story. Farrar plays an athletic and blatantly sexual Carmen on screen. After making the film, Farrar returned to the Metropolitan Opera where she incorporated some of the movie business into her live operatic performances. Staging a fight with a chorus girl in the cigarette factory scene (the chorus girl ripped off Farrar’s dress on the left side leaving Farrar naked from the waist up) and attacking Don Juan (Caruso) physically (he was furious and grabbed her, holding her tightly until he finished singing when he threw her onto the ground), Farrar caused an enormous scandal. Nevertheless, much of the business has become standard fare in subsequent operatic portrayals of Carmen. Farrar was one of the first major stars of the serious stage to make a movie. Her considerable success encouraged others to follow suit. Within ten years film had replaced opera as the pinnacle of cultural glamour. Farrar’s film is an example of opera affecting film and film affecting opera.


Performing forces
11 players (violin I and II, cello, bass, flute/piccolo, clarinet I, trumpet I, trombone, piano, percussion/trumpet, synthesizer)
Performing forces
42 players (strings 7,7,5,5,3, flute, flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet I & II, bassoon, 2 Fr. Horns, trumpet I & II, 2 trombones, piano, percussion, tympani) and 3 singers (Carmen, mezzo-soprano; Don Jose, tenor; Escamillo, baritone)
Percussions 2 timpani, cymbals with sticks, snare drum, tambourine, castanets, triangle
Rehearsals One 2 ½ hour orchestral rehearsal
One 1 hour rehearsal with singers and piano
One 60 minute tech rehearsal
One 2 ½ hour dress rehearsal
Performance time 60 minutes, no intermission.
Singers need to show up for warm up 20 minutes befor
Film speed 20.5 frames per second
Film source George Eastman House , Rochester, NY
Projection Variable speed 35 mm. projector
Rights In the public domain but fees ($1,800), charged and established by the Eastman House which owns the only print.
Program Note Available on videotape Carmen (DeMille, 1915) VAI 69222. GERALDINE FARRAR AND CECIL B. DeMILLE: THE EFFECT OF OPERA ON FILM AND FILM ON OPERA IN 1915 “There must hereafter be a recognized line between the Carmens who have feathers and scratch and those that have whiskers and bite.” (New York Sun 1915) Since its inception the moving picture has been associated with the opera. In 1893 in an article in The New York Times, Thomas Edison painted a futuristic vision that was not to be realized until the advent of television and the videotape recorder: My intention is to have such a happy combination of photography and electricity that a man can sit in his own parlour and see depicted upon a curtain the forms of the players in opera upon a distant stage, and hear the voices of the singers. Edison went on to make a 22-minute Parsifal (1904) and a shorter version of von Flotow’s Martha (1906) whose music had to be produced live with the mechanical image. These were only two of many subsequent examples of opera stories transferred to the screen by many different film directors. In 1916, taking a different tack, Thomas Dixon advertised his The Fall of a Nation with its completely original score by Victor Herbert as the first ‘grand opera cinema.’ In almost every instance the association of opera with film was made by film directors who were trying to capitalize on the status of opera to elevate their movies. Even the term ‘silent films’ made its very first appearance in association with opera. A 1918 headline for a review of Hellcat starring opera singer Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967) read ‘Two Opera Stars in Silent Films.’ The headline emphasized how ironic it was to have opera singers working in a medium which could not reproduce their voices.2 By the 1920s, the motion picture had reached such a level of popularity that it was beginning to threaten the once unassailable position of opera as the pinnacle of theatrical glamour. Geraldine Farrar’s entry into film in 1915 made a substantial contribution to this shift in status. As one of the finest American sopranos of her time, known for the mellowness and maturity of her voice, the breadth of her vocal range, and her superb gifts as an actress, she was famous in both Europe and America for her interpretations of Puccini, also for her Carmen as well as many other major roles.3 Choreographer Agnes DeMille referred to Farrar in the following terms: Grand Opera meant far more in those days than it does now or possibly ever will again. It represented the ultimate in theatrical grandeur, honor, permanence and splendor and Farrar was among its most dazzling names… (DeMille, A. 1952: 22-4) Farrar’s appearance in Hollywood and her participation in a film lent her celebrity status to the medium. It was part of a calculated attempt to elevate the status of the motion picture, and it largely succeeded. On 23 April 1915, Hollywood producer Jesse L. Lasky attended Farrar’s performance of Madame Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera House. He wanted to attract players from the legitimate stage to motion pictures and with them a new, upscale audience. He also wanted to make his company competitive with that of Adolph Zuckor whose stable of players was led by Mary Pickford. After the performance and an introduction by Farrar’s friend, Morris Gest, Lasky put his proposal to Farrar: I don’t know whether you have even seen a motion picture, but my company makes them, and I’d like to persuade you to do the story of Carmen for us . . . We have no trouble securing famous plays and engaging their stars . . . but they’re always afraid acting in a movie will hurt their stage prestige. I could see by the ovation you got today that your prestige is such that whatever you do, your public will accept it as right. (Lasky and Weldon 1957: 116) Although the Metropolitan Opera disapproved, Farrar went to Hollywood in the summer of 1915. Cecil B. DeMille’s brother, writer William DeMille, described the terms of her engagement: She signed a contract with Lasky to join us for eight weeks, during which she was to make no less than three important feature pictures. The company was to furnish her a house, a car and the unheard-of sum of twenty thousand dollars for the eight weeks’ work. The demand for stars was having its natural economic result, and the day of big picture salaries was dawning. The idea of taking our most expensive star from the field of grand opera was, perhaps, more daring than the Company realized, because of the different standards and methods of acting in each medium. On the operatic stage ‘Jerry’ was known as a fine actress, which meant that she had more than two facial expressions, that she never tripped over her own feet and that her gestures were not semaphorical. But the long-sustained expression of emotion a tempo of the opera house, always subordinated to singing tone and orchestral rhythm, was quite a different problem from the smoothly flowing, intimate, silent and realistic acting which the screen demanded. It meant an instant translation from the most distant and artificial form of acting known to modern man to the closest and most naturalistic method which had yet been evolved. Facing a camera for the first time, an opera singer, more than the ordinary actor, misses his voice. Jerry herself was somewhat dubious as to her wisdom in plunging so suddenly into unknown waters and meeting a vast new audience voiceless. But valiant was certainly the word for Jerry; she threw herself at the unaccustomed job with great gusto, worked like a horse, took it all as rather a lark and in three days had the whole studio eating out of her hand. Pending her arrival, there was a certain nervousness to be noticed in the studio. This was to be our first visitor from the magic world of opera, and many rumors of ‘artistic temperament’ were whispered fearfully as we labored to prepare her three pictures in advance of her coming. Tales were told of the utter unreasonableness of great singers; how impossible it was to get them to take direction; how they were liable to throw things and break furniture in order to express displeasure without hurting their voices; so that the whole plant awaited our distinguished songbird with definite but well-concealed anxiety. When she turned out to be an honest-to-God two-fisted trouper, strong as an ox and rejoicing in scenes of physical combat, the studio rubbed its eyes as if awaking from a bad dream. When it further developed that she was delightful to work with, kind, considerate and hail-fellow-well-met with the lowliest extra or the newest property boy, the studio turned over on its back and purred. (DeMille, W.C. 1939: 147-9) Farrar’s Carmen Before going to Hollywood, in an interview that appeared in The Music Lover (1915) Farrar answered the question ‘what manner of woman is your Carmen?’: She isn’t merely sensual. She couldn’t be. The merely sensual woman is too transparent to be dangerous and, lacking mentality, she lacks power. Carmen couldn’t have played havoc as she did except for the fact that there was a keen and subtle intelligence behind it all. She was deadly only because she could compel the highest as well as the lowest form of admiration. Then, too, remember that in playing the role the sympathy of the audience is all with the other woman. How is one to gain a justifiable sympathy for Carmen unless she is capable of making more than a merely sensual appeal? The Hollywood experience in the summer of 1915 seems to have tipped the balance of Farrar’s interpretation towards the ‘havoc’ side. Carmen, was premiered at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on 1 October 1915. It was based more or less on the original story by Prosper Mérimée, and so there were substantial differences between it and the opera. Most significantly, in the film, Carmen is a less sympathetic character; in William DeMille’s screenplay she is a manipulative, nomadic, tribal gypsy with fickle sexual appetites rather than the unconscious force of nature one finds in the opera. Micaela does not play a role in the DeMille version, and in the movie there are realistic fights in the cigarette factory (musical aspects of which are dicussed in detail in the final section of this chapter), in Pastias’ tavern, and in a bull ring. Although the differences between the movie and the opera were remarked upon, the movie won good reviews. In Musical America Olin Downes said of the premiere: Miss Farrar has long been known as one of the cleverest actresses in opera, and she said the other evening, after the performance, that in preparing the pictures in California, she had at last learned what it meant to act and work in company with actors. Miss Farrar did show, in many of the pictures, histrionic ability. Her effects were those of broad brush strokes, effects which went home, even though the screen employed was not over-large for such an auditorium. In realistic scenes she was as realistic as you please and (this may be a confession of my own low character and unaesthetic mind) I admit that the sight of the fight in the cigarette factory, when the young lady from Melrose started in to ‘clean out’ the place, and did so in a manner highly creditable to the physical prowess of , made me feel better than I had felt in a long time. But is it Art? That is the question. To lovers of Bizet’s opera, which so wonderfully avoids what is purely photographic and merely realistic and yet depicts with an eloquence perhaps never surpassed in a musical score the primeval passions and eternal sex antagonisms of Mérimée’s story, the scenes on Friday night were not all inspiring. For those, on the other hand, with the liking for moving pictures of the more melodramatic variety, the spectacle was wholly satisfactory. Miss Farrar made love in a delightfully frank manner; she fought like a fiend and a guttersnipe and displayed abundance of deviltry when, by every means in her power, she assisted Josè to kill his brother-officer – another stroke of breath-taking realism. All this she did, to a rearrangement of Bizet’s music, which was here effective and there inartistic, and to the gratification of at least a majority of the spectators. Yet those who have often had occasion wholeheartedly to admire Miss Farrar’s dramatic singing as well as her uncommonly finished histrionic art missed much that they had seen on the operatic stage, and some things that they had hoped they might see in the ‘movies.’ As for the scenario, it is true, as claimed, that it is nearer Mérimée’s novel than the opera libretto, but that is far from saying that it is faithful to that novel. Far from it. What is done is to offer, in the accepted ‘movie’ manner, and with unusual completeness of setting, a tale more continuous than that of the opera, with accompaniment of Bizet’s music, transposed and often badly re-orchestrated from the original score. Yet, the wonder of the performance to me was that Bizet’s music, thus reorchestrated, interpreted without technical finish or musicianly finess, told its tale with such marvellous eloquence. . . . As for Miss Farrar, I would rather watch her and listen to her in opera, where she occupies a niche wholly her own, than to watch her in a far less artistic frame, where others less exceptionally gifted than she can appear with success as her rivals (Downes 1915) The Lasky executives were extremely pleased with the film’s reception, as the Boston Post (1915) reported: Mr. Goldfish [Sam Goldwyn] was delighted with the success of the first presentation. He said to a Post reporter: ‘I believe that Miss Farrar will supersede any human being ever seen on the screen and that she will bring into the moving picture house people who have never been there before. I am confident that she will elevate the moving picture drama to heights never dreamed of. . .’ S. L. Rothapfel, who had personal charge of the musical adaptation, declared that the first presentation exceeded his greatest expectations. One of the most interested witnesses of the presentation . . . W. W. Hodkinson, president of the Paramount Picture Company, . . saw the realization of his dreams of years ago, when he first conceived the idea of presenting grand opera on the screen. (Boston Post 1915) The premiere of Carmen at the Strand Theatre in New York a month later earned similar reviews, the following taken from an article in the New York Sun, entitled ‘Farrar a Tiger as Screen Carmen - Gypsy Girl is a Slugger:’ The much advertised picture version of Prosper Mérimée’s novel ‘Carmen’ was seen yesterday at the Strand Theatre. Of course Geraldine Farrar was the Carmen of this occasion. . . A Spanish cigarette maker is, to judge from what the audience witnessed yesterday, a combination of tigress and lightweight slugger, with a tendency to go about all the time in a state of undress. Miss Farrar emphasized the physical, not to say the bestial, note in the gypsy, as these pictures reveal her idea of Carmen to a degree that leaves but little else in the woman’s character. She lays about her with the vigour of a longshoreman when she does not care for the addresses of a swain and bites and scratches her fellow employees like a tigress. Miss Farrar was best in the scenes of comedy and her banter with the cigarette girls was very eloquently expressed by her facial emotions . . Wallace Reid, who was a youthful , looking weak enough to fall for any gypsy, stuck Miss Farrar well and deep with his dagger, and if there ever was a symptom of agony and death from a stab wound it was graphically depicted on Miss Farrar’s face for the benefit of the public. This picture play is thoroughly Spanish in revelation of every physical characteristic of ‘Carmen.’ Indeed it succeeds in adding something, as Carmen had been supposed by many readers of Mérimée’s book to be a woman of certain imagination and capable of some poetic sensitiveness. But in William DeMille’s scenario as Miss Farrar interprets it, she is a plump little body with a high temper, an ardent nature and a potence in the ‘wallop’ that nobody would suspect from her size. There must hereafter be a recognized line between the Carmens who have feathers and scratch and those that have whiskers and bite. At all events Maria Gay’s seems all prunes and prisms compared with the Spanish gypsy that Miss Farrar is revealing at the Strand Theatre. (New York Sun 1915) On the evening of February 17, 1916 Farrar returned to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera to perform the operatic version of . Believing that ‘art profited immensely from this work in silent pantomime,’ she incorporated certain elements from the cinema version of into her operatic performance. Without warning any of her fellow performers, she introduced a realistic fight in the cigarette factory into the first act of the opera. Then she stuffed her rose into Don José’s (Caruso’s) cheek. In Act III she became so energetic that Caruso grabbed her and would not let her go. After he finished singing, Farrar broke away and fell to the floor (Nash, E. 1981: 191-192). Offstage Caruso directed a violent temper tantrum at Farrar. A rather uncharitable account of this appearance was published in the music journal Internationl Music and Drama: The surprise of the week was reserved for Thursday night and precisely in that inexhaustible source of thrills and sensations which is ‘Carmen.’ I don’t believe there is one of our readers who has not read in the daily papers the reports of that memorable and historical evening, with all its accompanying details such as the incident with Caruso behind the scenes, the strange and pathetic vulgarities indulged in by Mme. Farrar, the slaps she administered the bewildered Don José; the kicks and cuffs and catch-as-catch-can bout with the chorus girls, one of whom was valiantly thrown over by Madame and had to be surrounded by her companions to conceal her tears to the public, etc., etc. In the first act especially, Mme. Farrar seemed like an energumen seized and shaken either by the evil spirits or by several quarts of her ancestral beverage which rendered her entirely incapable to check and control herself. I am not mentioning her impossible make-up, her torn and tattered dress, her arm and right breast entirely naked, her boorish poses, her sudden sallies towards her fellow cigar-makers, and the rest with all its concomitants of altered or interrupted melodic lines which reduced the scene to the proportions of a Los Angeles film. I was staring in utter stupefaction at this extraordinary exhibition of staid diabolism, and being a very pious Christian, I was seized by a great, profound and inexpressible feeling of pity and compassion. I had perfectly understood in a flash that this lady had come to the footlights mumbling to herself: ‘Ahah! My braves, you just watch me now and I’ll show you the proper way to act Carmen as it is acted only in one spot in the world–Los Angeles.’ (E.V. 1916) In spite of this account and others like it, Farrar continued to be phenomenally successful. The huge salary she earned in Hollywood, the increase in the number of people she reached through the movies, and the constant publicity her pictures brought soon encouraged other stars of the legitimate stage to follow her lead. Her motion-picture work improved her box-office appeal rather than detracting from it. Although she dropped the business with Don José in subsequent performances with Caruso, and although her athletic and blatantly sexual interpretation caused a scandal at the Met, a lot of her realistic, film-inspired business was incorporated into subsequent operatic performances of Carmen as I myself witnessed at Covent Garden fifty-five years later. Farrar reached the larger public she had hoped for. Lasky coopted her glamour and appeal and made them work for the less prestigious medium of motion pictures, and film shortly replaced the opera at the pinnacle of the entertainment hierarchy in the United States. There is little doubt that DeMille’s Carmen and Geraldine Farrar played important roles in the changing status of the motion picture in the United States, but twenty years later William DeMille, looking at the film without its musical accompaniment, perhaps projected at the wrong speed, and perhaps even without its original colour tinting and toning, was very critical: Just twenty years later I had occasion to look at our picture of ‘Carmen.’ It was hard to believe that what I saw on the screen was actually the same work upon which so much honest effort had been expended. As I had gone with the screen, step by step, in its gradual evolution, my memory tended to clothe our earlier efforts with technical attributes which had become essential and commonplace in the modern film. Their absence was startling. Our beloved ‘Carmen,’ which had been hailed as an achievement in 1915, was as much like a modern motion picture as the little three-toed echippus is like Twenty Grand; or as the earliest ‘horseless carriage’ is like the streamlined, high-powered automobile of today. For the first time I actually realized what the constant pressure of millions of people who want a certain thing improved, can do to bring about that improvement. Looked at with 1935 eyes, our picture was badly photographed, the lighting was childish, the acting was awful, the writing atrocious and – may Allah be merciful – the direction terrible. The only interesting thing about our work was the fact that we had taken the same pride in it as Henry Ford took in his Model T, or the Wright brothers in their first plane. As I watched the bizarre affair flicker by I reflected that perhaps it is just as well we have no film recordings of David Garrick, Edwin Booth or Salvini: they might only shatter cherished ideals. ‘Carmen’ would have lived in my memory as a fine picture if only I hadn’t seen it again. But all things are relative to their times. Few of our modern hostesses, fond as they are of royalty, could survive a dinner with Richard the Lion-hearted. (DeMille, W.C. 1939: 154-5) The Restoration of the Music and the Film By 1985 all that remained of DeMille’s Carmen were these accounts and reminiscences, a battered black and white print of the film at the George Eastman House that had been Cecil B. DeMille’s own copy (perhaps exactly the one his brother looked at in 1935), and a copyright deposit of the original musical accompaniment by Hugo Riesenfeld at the Library of Congress. The gradual restoration of both the music and the film over subsequent years and a number of performances at various stages in the restoration process provided a deeper insight into the meaning of the original sources and also a means of critiquing them. The copyright deposit consisted of a piano conductor score and orchestral parts for flute, flute/piccolo, two clarinets, two trumpets, one trombone, percussion/timpani and strings. There were no parts for oboes, bassoons, French horns, harp or 2nd and 3rd trombones, maybe simply because these parts were not deposited for copyright (which happened often enough) or because only the copyrighted parts were played at the Boston premiere.4 There were no vocal parts in the copyright deposit, but the newspaper reviews of the New York performances indicate that there were vocal soloists (‘L’amour est enfant de Bohème’ was sung when the Lilias Pastia scene was shown, ‘La Fleur que vous m’avez donnée’ accompanied Don Jose’s courtship, and the toreador’s march was also featured (New York Sun 1915).5 Because it no doubt affected the reception of the work originally, something should be said about the imprecision of the piano conductor score and the indications it had for synchronization of the music with the film. A piano conductor score was made for the pianist and the conductor. It was cued so that the conductor knew that when an intertitle or action that was printed above a certain section of music appeared on the screen, the conductor was to begin that section of music. Usually there was an intertitle or dramatic action listed at the beginning of each new musical section of the score. The musical scores for D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1914) and Intolerance (1916), for example, (which were made at the same time as the score for Carmen) were minutely cued in this fashion even though they changed music and tempo continuously, about every twenty to thirty seconds for two and a half to three and a half hours respectively. In the score for Carmen, however, sometimes there was no indication of what was happening at the beginning of a new section of music. Sometimes the titles were not correct (or they had been changed after the score was made). The cues frequently read ‘Play Until Title’ which meant theoretically that one would keep playing and leap into the next section of music when the title appeared whether or not one had finished the section being played. Sometimes there was too much music. This lack of precision could not but have affected the quality of the synchronization and performance. 6 The first time I performed Carmen was in Washington, DC with only ten instruments (members of the National Symphony). Although the first run movie palaces would have had at least a chamber orchestra, the smaller theatres would have used a ten-piece ensemble or smaller. The National Symphony players were not disturbed by the missing material: the pianist filled in a lot of the missing textures and harmonies, and they liked playing for a film. The print was Cecil B. DeMille’s own black and white copy. The producer of a French television program on opera filmed a fifteen minute segment on the restoration. She was fascinated by Farrar and enthusiastic about the film. The reaction of the North American audience, by comparison, was tepid. The next performance was at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival with a chamber orchestra from Slovenia. There were three singers including a very statuesque young woman who did Carmen’s arias sexily dressed (a North American colleague in the audience couldn’t keep his eyes off the singer)—which was just as well, because the Italian audience didn’t much like the film or the music. As a final insult, the projectionist started the film in the middle of the overture.8 The film was still in black and white, and not yet restored; the orchestration minus the missing instruments left the accompaniment sounding thin, without the colour of Bizet’s original; and in particular the French horn melody meant to go with a tremolo string accompaniment in the final scene (Carmen’s death) was missing (neither transferred to the trombone nor to the piano part)—although the tremolo strings conveyed the tension, they sounded odd and senseless in isolation. What I learned from that performance was that the 1915 Boston review was correct. The orchestration was bizarre. Nevertheless, the accompaniment was workable, and there were some powerful moments. In the fight in the cigarette factory, for example, one heard the strangeness of the arrangement, but otherwise the operatic music became good film music. At the beginning of the scene the music announced Carmen’s entrance and through the use of pregnant pauses and a demanding percussiveness, it alerted the audience to the beginning of something important. Before the fight it even suggested the laughter of the factory girls at Carmen’s expense. Then as Carmen took off her jacket, a shrill, insect-like motif in the strings heralded something more disturbing. Following this, the low strings, playing fast, off the beat (which was hard to do), carried its own tension. Something more violent was about to happen. Cascades of ever louder runs down the scale led up to a percussive chord when a bottle was broken over Carmen’s head. Short punctuated chords suggested jabs and punches, then an antiphonal motif suggested the back and forth of the fight. When Carmen looked her adversary in the face, the antiphonal motive climaxed in a series of repeated phrases. The fight continued, but a new, repeated, static motif announced the switch of the scene to outside the factory. Don Jose was being urged to come in and break up the fight. This was the original music for the fight scene in the opera and its kinetic energy matched that of the screen without ever seeming to duplicate it. My first performance in France took place in Strasbourg with ten members from the Strasbourg Symphony. That group of musicians thought that the accompaniment was going to be easy, because they knew the music so well. They were surprised when it turned out to be really hard to do with just ten players. They had the original Bizet orchestration in their heads and found it hard to make adjustments for all the missing material. Nevertheless, the French audience was enthusiastic. The film was still in black and white. A second performance in France, this time in Lille was perhaps the best of all. The film’s original tinting and toning had been restored, and the film looked sumptuous. The ten-piece ensemble from the Lille Symphony had worked up the music over the summer, making adjustments for all the missing material. The final French horn melody that accompanied Carmen’s death had been transposed to the trombone. But perhaps best of all was the context. The five, free performances were presented by the theatre in Lille as part of a national holiday devoted to the patrimony of France. Ordinary people came into the theatre for the five hour-long screenings. I normally respond to questions after a performance, but got none. Afterwards I received a note from one of the members of the public. She said she was sorry no one had asked any questions, but she thought the reason was that they were all so deeply moved by the film and its music that they could not snap out of the effect quickly enough to ask a question. In France one had the feeling that Carmen was truly theirs, no matter what the arrangement. All these experiences led me to believe that the instrumental parts missing from the copyright deposit may have been missing because Riesenfeld the adaptor was not the musical genius he was reputed to be. For my recording with the London Philharmonic10 and for bigger orchestral performances, I decided to take the missing parts from the opera’s full score; and at the end of the film I restored the missing horn melody referred to above (arranged for the trombone for the purposes of the ten-piece ensemble performances). As at Pordenone (and as, indeed, in those 1915 New York performances of Carmen), vocalists were used on the London Philharmonic recording.9 Again sonic texture added considerably to the visual and dramatic effects. The woman who sang Carmen listened to her first take11 while watching the video monitor and said, ‘I have to make her sexier and more of a whore’ and so changed the colour of her voice for the subsequent take. The effect was to highlight Farrar’s facial expressiveness and, when the bass sang the toreador song during the bull fight the detail of the bull pawing the earth (in time to the music) was one of several to become newly noticeable. It was as if the vocal music intensified the movement of body and muscle on screen, in a different way, in fact, from the instrumental music. Conclusion So now let us return to William DeMille’s assessment of Carmen in 1935. I think he was both right and wrong. Cecil B. DeMille’s Carmen is a fragile theatrical property. It is considerably strengthened by the original tinting and toning. It is considerably strengthened by an orchestration closer to that of the Bizet original. It works with only ten players representing the Bizet orchestration but only when the ensemble is really superb, and the pianist makes up for a lot of the missing instruments. The imprecision of the cueing in the score makes for some awkward moments. On a program with Cavalcanti’s La P’tite Lili accompanied by music by Milhaud, the DeMille seemed old fashioned.11 On the other hand, particularly in France, the restored film with its restored score has a very powerful historic appeal. William DeMille forgot how much the colour and the music added to the film. He forgot what the intention had been in having Farrar play the title role, and he forgot how successful Carmen and Farrar were at changing the status of the motion picture and the performance of the opera itself. DeMille’s Carmen is a historic milestone and under the right circumstances even with but a pale shadow of the original operatic music, it still has the power to move, particularly a French audience, deeply. NOTES 1. In The New York Times, 13 May 1893. Quoted in Hendricks (1972: 104-5). 2. The New York Times, 25 November 1918, p. 11, col. 3. 3. Her popularity with the younger opera goers in New York earned them the nickname ‘Gerry-flappers.’ Farrar was in real life a strong, independent and unconventional woman. It is ironic that she made her reputation both on the opera stage and in film as Carmen, a character who according to offensive operatic convention had to die at the end because she was a strong and independent woman. 4. This might partially explain the criticism of the orchestration in the Musical America review (Downes 1915). The usual copyright deposit of a smaller ensemble would have had flute/piccolo, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, percussion/tympani, piano and four strings. The viola would have been lacking. 5. The [NY] Sun, Nov. 1, 1915, p. 7. Although the flower song was mentioned, the music for it does not appear in the Riesenfeld adaptation of the Bizet deposited for copyright. This might mean that the journalist was mistaken, or that there might have been more than one arrangement of the accompaniment for the film. It raises the possibility that the criticism of the Riesenfeld arrangement and the sloppiness of the indications for synchronisation led music directors outside of Boston to create their own arrangements. 6. So, were we dealing with a different version of the film? A simple miscalculation? Or perhaps the intention really was to have this music played unusually fast. In the restoration of the music, an attempt was made to have the orchestra keep playing until the nearest musical cadence, and the score was synchronized accordingly so there was not too much extraneous leaping (even so, there was still some). If there was a choice of how much music to use, a tempo that made sense musically and was within the opera tradition was selected. However, between 1892 and 1929 musicians played much faster than they do today, maybe because the bowing was really different, the tone production was much lighter, and the strings were using gut strings. ‘Made sense musically’ therefore was extremely subjective. Sometimes cuts in the music had to be made because there was dancing on screen. One could actually tell how fast the music was supposed to be going, and as a result you could see that there was simply too much music. Actually Farrar did her scenes to music; her accompanist played to get her in the mood. She claims to have been the first movie star to have had such accompaniment — I asked Lillian Gish about this and she said it was very likely — and afterwards all of the female stars wanted music on the set. So the discrepancies in the dancing probably resulted from the cutting and the use of different takes. However, at other times it was clear that the dancing was in fact not made to music because it varied speed so wildly. In these cases the tempo was set to match the dancing and the synchronization adjusted when the camera moved to someone besides the dancer. At one point in the score there was a notation ‘repeat over and over’ and ‘change tempo according to action’ which was simply baffling. All the conductors who used the Riesenfeld score must have had the same challenges because of the lack of precision in the piano conductor score. 7. The projectionist did, however, go down on his knees by way of apology at the end and offered me a chocolate bar. 8. The VAI video shown in Newcastle at the Carmen Conference was made from a restored version of the film from the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY which has the DeMille Collection; the tinting and toning was done to specifications found in DeMille’s hand. 9. A reviewer of the video called me before publishing his review because he was upset by the vocal music. He was sure that it was not authentic and had a very clear (but erroneous) idea of what a silent film accompaniment should sound like (and it shouldn’t have singing!). I pointed him to the evidence of the New York showings, and to many other examples of silent film scores with occasional appearances by vocalists (Way Down East and Intolerance to name just two). 10. (Cecil B. DeMille Carmen (1915) Video Artists International 69222). 11. The orchestra was recorded first. Then the singers sang to the prerecorded orchestral part. It was the only time that I was able to sit back and actually watch the movie and listen to the music being recorded. REFERENCES Boston Post 1915, ‘Farrar Has Movie Debut. Famous Singer Greeted With Wild Applause as She Sees First Presentation of ‘Carmen’ on the Screen’, 2 October, pp. 1 & 4. DeMille, A. 1952, Dance to the Piper, Boston, Little, Brown and Co. DeMille, W.C. 1939, Hollywood Saga, New York, E. P. Dutton & Co. Downes, O. 1915, ‘Boston Sees Miss Farrar as ‘Carmen’ in Moving Pictures’, Musical America, 9 October, p. 4. E.V. 1916, ‘The Fourteenth Week at the Metropolitan, A Farrar Movie Thriller’, International Music and Drama, 26 February, pp. 3-5. Hendricks, G. 1972, Origins of the American Film, New York, Arno Press and the New York Times. Lasky, J. L. and D. Weldon 1957, I Blow My Own Horn, Garden City NY, Doubleday and Co.. The Music Lover 1915, [Unattributed interview with Geraldine Farrar], vol. 1, no. 1, May, p. 12. Nash, E. 1981, Always First Class. The Career of Geraldine Farrar, Washington DC, University Press of America. New York Sun 1915, ‘Farrar a Tiger as Screen Carmen – Gypsy Girl is a Slugger’, 1 November, p. 7.
artwork:Lidia Bagnoli