Cover image for Opera on film
Opera on film
Fawkes, Richard, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Duckworth, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 262 pages, 14 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
MT955 .F385 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Film makers have always been fascinated by opera. Long before the birth of the talkies, pioneers were trying to make sound films of operatic arias. Cecil B. De Mille's 1915 Carmen, starring the reigning queen of the Met, Geraldine Farrar, made his name and turned her into one of the silver screen's earliest stars. This fascinating study of opera within the history of cinema, charts the great film makers's obsession with this most glamorous medium and its stars, from Cecil B. DeMille to Pavarotti. Readers will learn how film makers have sought to popularize opera on the screen through presenting complete operas, operettas and operatic arias, and made opera's stars like Caruso, Chaliapin, Gigli, Tauber and Pavarotti into film stars. Opera films made for television complete the picture, as Opera on Film demonstrates the hitherto unrecognized importance of opera in cinema history and recounts some of the explosive incidents that occur when diva meets director.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A British writer and film director, Fawkes offers an uneven but captivating story of the intersections between opera, its stars, and 20th-century film/video media. Fawkes first focuses on silent films, often dealing more with the literary source of an opera than with its musical incarnation. This account of operatic materials in silent films is strangely eerie. Fawkes soon turns the spotlight to performances by opera singers in films with only marginal connections to any opera (films of full-length operas had to wait until the 1950s.) Such physically attractive singers as Lawrence Tibbett or Grace Moore attained fame and a certain amount of fortune in such endeavors. Fawkes is at his best in dealing with modern directors Ponnelle and Zefferelli and in his sympathetic chapter on Mario Lanza, and he reserves highest praise for modern treatments of opera that exploit the unique possibilities of the film/video medium. As a result, he ignores the many films that simply preserve staged performances. This is unfortunate, for actual productions have much to teach. The book is engagingly written, and Fawkes is not above being somewhat voyeuristic when dealing with particular star personalities. Lack of footnotes and bare-bones bibliography make the book of marginal value to scholars; best suited to beginning undergraduate and general readers. K. Pendle University of Cincinnati