Just like today’s movies, opera used to be public entertainment number one. And that for a long time. No wonder, then, that from the very beginning of cinema, much attention was paid to this already well known art form. Carmen, one of the most popular operas of the time, appealed particularly to the imagination and was filmed as early as 1912 with the prima ballerina of the Opéra Comique, Régina Badet, in the leading role.
In 1915, Cecil B. DeMille filmed the opera again, this time with Geraldine Farrar as the man-eating gypsy. Now, Farrar was not only one of the greatest sopranos and MET legends of the early 20th century, her beautiful appearance and excessive acting talent also enabled her to build a career as a Hollywood actress.
The story was substantially amended, making Carmen a thoroughly bad woman, possessing hardly any subtleties. Everything is black and white, just like the (silent) film itself, but that should not spoil the fun, because there is a lot to enjoy.
The film has been fully restored from DeMille’s personal copy, and the original score by Hugo Riesenfeld has been recreated by Gilian B. Anderson, who also conducts the London Symphonic Orchestra in the recorded soundtrack. As a bonus a few arias, sung by Farrar, have been edited in between scenes. For film and opera lovers alike, this is a veritable monum