Silent Movie Opera: Carmen (1910)

Presented at the Battersea Arts Centre in August 1999 with VOCEM electric voice theatre.

Conceived and devised by Nick Till and Kandis Cook. Musical Director Frances M. Lynch. Singers Frances Lynch, Jenny Miller, David Sheppard. Sound Design by Alan Burgess. Lighting by Charlotte McClelland

The project was developed with the support of the English National Opera Studio.

Silent Movie Opera is an exploration of the intriguing paradox of silent-movie opera, based on a 20 minute silent-film of Carmen made by the Film-d’Art Company in Paris 1910. The original film, shown for the first time in public in the UK in modern times, borrows from the cultural status and melodramatic style of opera to give status and credibility to the new art form of film.

The original film is interwoven with newly made film footage, and a live performance score accompanies the screening of the film, combining vocal and electronic sound. The live performance score establishes a critical relationship to the film image, offering a challenge to the conventional relationship of sound and image in film. Responding to the drama enacted on the screen the three singers embark upon a search for the suppressed voice of Carmen, weaving a tissue of sound, words and music drawn from many different traditions, from East and West, from Bessie Smith to Janis Joplin. As the sound fills the space the flickering image of the silent film Carmen herself is briefly restored to life.

"Around the sliver of a film, there is frenetic improvisation from Frances Lynch and Vocem, specialists in effervescent fusions of vocals and electronica… a fascinating insight into the links between opera, music and film." London Evening Standard

This project is currently being developed with composer Karen Wimhurst.


 Nicholas Till, “Seen but not Heard: Sexuality and Space in the Film d’Art Carmen of 1910”, in Carmen on Film (Amsterdam: Rodopi Books, 2005)

"The name "Carmen" means song. In Bizet’s opera Carmen is characterized as "singer". Socially powerless, she employs popular song as a power; a means to attract and seduce. The silent movie deprives Carmen even of her voice. She is rendered mute."

Silent Movie Opera: Research Notes for the Company

The Silent Movie Research Document can be downloaded and printed by clicking here:

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© Post-Operative Productions, Nick Till, Kandis Cook, 2002