On Friday, June 17 at 8:00 p.m. The Cabot, founded in 1920 as a silent film and vaudeville theatre, will present a unique event, the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra’s performance of its new, original score to E.A. Dupont’s Weimar-era masterwork, Varieté (1925). Silent film giant Emil Jannings stars in this wrenching tale of love and lust, set in a circus, with trapeze artists and murder.
An edited version of the film, known as Jealousy, was released in America in 1926. Today, 90 years later, Varieté will be shown at The Cabot in its complete, unexpurgated form, in a gorgeous new digital restoration, with the 12-piece BSFO performing live-to-picture and conducted by six Berklee student composers. The original film, made in Germany, was severely cut and excoriated because it was deemed to be “unacceptable to the moral standards of American audiences.” The full film contains bare breasts, dancing midgets, lust, jealousy, murder, and even a relationship between a 40 year old man and a teenage girl.
Under the leadership of Berklee Professor of Film Scoring and three-time Emmy Nominee, Sheldon Mirowitz, the six highly-selected film scoring students have composed outstanding music to this silent masterpiece, which would have most likely appeared at The Cabot in 1925.
A Talk Before The Film:
Professor Mirowitz will host a short talk with the student composers, prior to the screening of the film.
“This project is the only thing I have ever done where I can reliably say, ‘people will freak out!'” says Mirowitz. “Generally when you see a silent film, you see two or three people play some music that they have compiled to play to the movie as it goes along, but the scores that my students write are completely different. This is a single piece of music that plays directly in sync with the movie and tells the whole story of the film. We don’t approach it as if it’s an old artifact, we approach it as a valid work of art that needs translation to contemporary audiences.”
Professor Mirowitz, who has scored more than fifty film and TV projects, has been nominated three times for an Emmy Award for Best Music–most recently for the score to the A&E movie The Nazi Officer’s Wife. His credits include the score to the Oscar-nominated Troublesome Creek, winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance and the score for the Peabody Award winning mini-series Odyssey of Life. He has written theme music for networks ranging from MTV to The History Channel and has scored hundreds of radio and television commercials, including award-winning work for such clients as Converse, Kodak, UPS, Reebok and AT&T. Mirowitz is a key faculty member of the world’s only undergraduate film scoring program at Berklee and putting this very special project together has been an enormous feat.
The talented young composers from around the globe are Mateo Rodo (Argentina), Larry Hong (USA), Austin Matthews (USA), Hyunju Yun (South Korea), Kanako Hashiyama (Japan) and Nathan Drube (USA). Each composer has written the score for an individual reel from the film and in performance, each composer also conducts their reel. The score is written for 12 musicians from Spain, Israel, Turkey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. who will perform on these instruments: flute/piccolo/alto flute, oboe/english horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone/bass trombone, 2 keyboards, percussion, violin, cello and bass.
“We write a real score for these films. I think that if the director of Varieté (Ewald Andre Dupont) heard what we have done now, he would love it. But we understand film language in a different way than they did when this film was released. We bring a modern film vocabulary to an old film. And, the sheer visceral impact of a live orchestra playing live to a film is a very strong, very moving, very beautiful and exquisite experience. It really brings the film to life,” stated Mirowitz.
The recipient of a Special Commendation from the Boston Society of Film Critics, The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) is dedicated to composing new, original scores for silent feature classics and performing them live-to-picture. To date, the BSFO has scored and performed nine iconic silent features including F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, Faust and The Last Laugh, Clarence Badger’s It, Sergei Eisenstein’s
Battleship Potemkin, Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality, E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly and Rupert Julian’s The Phantom of the Opera. For their last film score, Mirowitz and his students presented their new score for Nosferatu (1992) to a sold-out crowd in Boston Symphony Hall on the night before Halloween, October 30th, 2015, with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, conducted by maestro Keith Lockhart.
The BSFO has performed to wide acclaim at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Nantucket Film Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and a half-dozen other major film and performing arts venues.
Varieté is the tenth original Berklee score that the Coolidge Cinema (Brookline, MA) has commissioned through its Sounds of Silents® program, which supports new compositions to accompany silent film classics. The stunning performance of Varieté recently debuted at The Coolidge.
Advance tickets to the June 17 Varieté film concert at The Cabot can be purchased at www.thecabot.org. Tickets are $25, general admission. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Cabot box office during regular theater hours at 286 Cabot Street, Beverly, Massachusetts. For more information visit the website or call 978.927.3100.
Following the Friday June 17, event at the Cabot Theatre, the film and orchestra goes on the road and presents Varieté on Thursday, June 23, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, as part of their FilMusic Festival.
Two quotes of note:
“For seventy-four minutes, the world was wonderful.”
– A BSFO audience member, following their performance of Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!
“As the San Francisco Film Society’s Executive Director Noah Cowan said to me, explaining his absence from the screening: “I’ve seen ‘The Last Laugh’ in every decade of my film-going life.” I, too, thought I knew it by heart. But the amazing, heartfelt score by the young film-scoring students, who each conducted the reel of the score that they’d composed (based on themes created by Professor Mirowitz), literally “handing off the baton” every ten or so minutes, grabbed me. It made the film seem as fresh and astonishing as it was the first time I saw it. At the climax the audience leapt to its feet and gave the first standing ovation of the festival, lusty and long indeed.”
– Indiewire film scribe Meredith Brody, on the BSFO’s performance of their new score to F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh at the 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.