Chaplin Operas at the Coronet

By Matthew-Walker, Robert | Musical Opinion, May/June 2007 | Go to article overview

Chaplin Operas at the Coronet


Matthew-Walker, Robert, Musical Opinion


Nineteen years ago, Benedict Mason wrote rhree scores suggested by diree of Charlie Chaplin's silent films, to be performed whilst the films were being shown. Mason's music takes the form of brief one-act operas, and on 28 February at The Coronet, a South-East London one-time cinema at the Elephant and Castle, now made into a theatre near the London College of Communication, the London Sinfonietta, as part of a six towns-and-cities tour of England and Scotland, saw fit to resurrect these ChaplinOperas and the relevant films for a presentation. Chaplin himself was born in a house about half-a-mile from The Coronet, thus justifying the venue.

It's always interesting to see great, silent black-and-white films with live orchestral accompaniment, but the accompanying operas were not accompaniment in the generally accepted sense of the term. Indeed, at times I was uncertain as to whether these were even operas, although anything is possible in art, given inspiration and the means to bring it to our attention. Benedict Mason certainly had the means, through a 24-piece chamber orchestra, with mezzo-soprano Hilary Summers and baritone Omar Ebrahim, all under the able direction of Franck OUu. …

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