BRATTLEBORO — On Friday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m., audience members will be transported back in time during a showing of the iconic - yet rarely seen - silent film The Phantom of the Opera, presented at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., with a live score played by the renowned organist and musical historian Dennis James.
When the silent version of The Phantom of the Opera was released in 1925, the live organ soundtrack was so important that its producer and distributor, Universal Pictures, installed a full organ in the Astor Theater in New York City for the film's premiere.
“I find that people today often don't realize that these historical films were never really silent,” said James in a news release.
James reconstructs organ music for classic films using archival scores and historically informed approaches to composition.
“I think it was the discovery that the original music materials from the heyday of the silent film still survived - and it wasn't just a cliché-ridden field of 'make-it-up' music by show-off players carried out under the guise of improvisation -that has become what really started my career,” he says.
The production company James started, Silent Film Concerts, holds one of the largest collections in the world of authentic silent film music. This includes both original scores specific to certain films and hundreds of generic scores from the period, which James uses to faithfully recreate the musical experience that the directors of the films intended for their audiences.
“The 1916 Estey organ in the Sanctuary of Epsilon Spires will provide a perfect historical compliment to The Phantom of the Opera, recreating the exact sound that audiences would have heard a century ago,” event organizers write.
“If one loves movies as do most moviegoers today, seeing and hearing them as they were originally intended to be experienced simply should not be missed,” James says.
This 4K digital restoration of The Phantom of the Opera combines cuts of the film created in the 1920s with a later version enhanced with pigmented tints and sequences in two-tone Technicolor.
The film also features innovative makeup and prosthetics designed by Lon Chaney, the actor who plays the Phantom, which reportedly caused audience members to faint when his disfigured face was revealed in early screenings of the movie.
This event will feature tricks and treats in celebration of Halloween weekend. Tickets ($18; $10 for children under 13) can be purchased at epsilonspires.org.