PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – Lon Chaney Silences SF Symphony For Halloween Night, Friday at 8:00

Dennis James will accompany the 1925 film classic
on the magnificent Rufati Organ

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Celebrate Halloween with the 1925 classic silent film, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, featuring Lon Chaney Friday, October 31st at 8:00 p.m. in Davies Symphony Hall. The complete film will be shown while Carl Davis’ original score for the 1929 re-issue is performed by renowned organist Dennis James on Davies Symphony Hall’s Ruffatti Organ. The organ is the largest concert hall organ in North America and celebrates its 25th anniversary this season. The amazing instrument was hand crafted in Padua, Italy and installed in Davies Symphony Hall in time for the 1983-84 season. This customized concert pipe organ boasts 8,264 pipes ranging in size from a ballpoint pen to over 32 feet tall with a façade measuring 1600 square feet. Those not visible in the façade are housed in a three-story structure built behind the auditorium wall.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

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LON CHANEY – as the Phantom of the Opera & Davies Symphony Hall’s Ruffatti Organ

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There are actually five versions of The Phantom of the Opera. Not one of them has exactly the same sequences, score (if any), title cards, or cast of characters. If screened side-by-side, it would appear that even the actors might be hard pressed to fully answer the question, “What’s my motivation for being in the room?” The first screening, the “preview version”, took place in one of Sid Grauman’s Los Angeles theaters on January 7th, 1925. Whatever the musical accompaniment consisted of was attributed to composer Joseph Carl Breil who had supplied D.W. Griffith with scores for Birth of A Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Comments from the viewers shocked producer Carl Laemmle into ponying-up for re-takes and additional footage. The director, Rupert Julian – incompetent at best – was replaced by Edward Sedgwick, a veteran of the Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation. Sedgwick developed more subplots and created a climactic chase scene for Lon Chaney – as Erik, “The Phantom” – attempting to escape from the huge angry mob in a horse-drawn carriage that even sped past the Notre Dame set from Chaney’s earlier success, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Racing through extra shooting and then racing through its cut and paste job in the editing room, that finished product was then raced up to The City for one of those “only in San Francisco” events – a World Premiere – April 26th, 1925 – at none other than the Curran Theatre.

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PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, World Premiere, San Francisco, 26 April 1925, at the Curran Theatre

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MARY PHILBIN – Christine Daaé & NORMAN KERRY – Raoul de Chagny

The Dramatis Personae:
Lon Chaney – Erik, “the Phantom”
Mary Philbin – Christine Daaé
Norman Kerry – Raoul de Chagny
Arthur Edmund Carewe – Ledoux
Virginia Pearson – Carlotta’s mother
Mary Fabian – Carlotta
Gibson Gowland – Simon Buquet
Bernard Siegel … Joseph Buquet
Snitz Edwards – Florine Papillon
John Sainpolis – Phillippe de Chagny
Olive Ann Alcorn – La Sorelli
Anton Vaverka – Prompter
William Tyroler – Orchestra Leader
George B. Williams – M. Richard
Bruce Covington – M. Moncharmin
Cesare Gravina – Retiring Manager
Prima Ballerina – Rebecca (Carla) Laemmle

Dennis James is quite simply the best among the best of theatre organists. He is a favorite guest artist at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. In 2007 he created a tremendous stir for the Opening Night screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1928 classic, THE STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG starring Norma Shearer and Ramón Novarro. In September of this year, as a solo pianist, he accompanied two performances of the film at the Chungmuro International Film Festival in Seoul, Korea. Mr. James is internationally renowned for his consummate musicianship, especially his unsurpassed timing and sensitivity to the intentions of the director. He is extremely well-versed in Hollywood history and understands the nuances that surround its legendary stars. Recent accompanying appearances have included BROKEN BLOSSOMS (starring Lillian Gish) at the Stanford Theatre; MARK OF ZORRO for the Douglas Fairbanks Festival at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre; Charlie Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH at the New Victoria Theatre in Crook County Durham, England; and NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF TERROR (with Max Shreck) at the Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, Indiana. On November 15th Mr. James will be in Columiba at the University of South Carolina for Cecil B. DeMille’s THE GODLESS GIRL; and on the 20th in Edmonton, Canada at the Winspear Concert Hall for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra presentation of THE GENERAL starring Buster Keaton. Click here to view Dennis James’ 2008-09 performance schedule: DENNIS JAMES

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DENNIS JAMES and SEÁN MARTINFIELD – At the 2007 San Francisco Silent Film Festival

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA screening is the first performance to highlight the organ this 25th Anniversary season. Large scale works featuring the Ruffatti during the 2008-09 season include Mahler’s SYMPHONY NO. 8, Scriabin’s THE POEM OF ECSTASY, and the U.S. premiere of an SFS co-commission of a new work by SOFIA GUBAIDULINA. Another highlight of the season-long celebration of the Ruffatti Organ will be performances by eminent organist Paul Jacob in April 2009 when he makes his SFS debut performing Poulenc’s CONCERTO IN G MINOR for organ, strings and timpani and is featured in a special organ recital the same week. In May 2009 another first time guest of the SFS, organist Richard Paré, performs Handel’s ORGAN CONCERTO No. 1 in G minor when conductor Bernard Labadie leads a week of all Handel concerts in commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the composer’s death.

Click here to purchase tickets on-line: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Click here to order the ultimate DVD edition, a 2-disc set which includes the 1925 Original Version and 1929 Restored Version: DVD – LON CHANEY, The Phantom of the Opera

Visit Seán on YouTube:
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield
CA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES – A Preview Look with Seán Martinfield

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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

NO ON PROPOSITION 8

AND THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO DEFEAT PROPOSITION 8

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