Film: Fyodor Chaliapin. Opera Singer, Movie Star. Newly-restored silent film, ‘Tsar Ivan the Terrible’ (1915)

This is a rare opportunity to see Russia’s pre-eminent pre-revolutionary opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin’s only silent film appearance in a newly-restored print. ‘Tsar Ivan the Terrible’ (1915), directed by Alexander Ivanov-Gai, is based on Chaliapin’s great stage role in Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘The Maid of Pskov’. In 1915, Chaliapin’s stage manager, Reznikov set up a production company to bring the great singer’s stage roles to the screen. ‘Tsar Ivan the Terrible’ proved to be Chaliapin’s only silent film, though he did go on to star in the great German film director G W Pabt’s 1933 film, ‘Don Quixote’.

Despite the technical limitations of early silent filmmaking, ‘Tsar Ivan the Terrible’ succeeds in capturing Chaliapin at his most powerful. Now rarely screened – and not seen in London for many years. This version is based on a print from the Gosfilmfond Archive in Moscow, restored (with new English-language inter-titles) by Paul Fryer, and with a new digital music score composed by Barry Seaman. The restored film was premiered in St Petersburg in 2001, and screened at the Library of Congress in Washington DC later that year.

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Paul Fryer is a writer, researcher and academic, Associate Director of Research at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, where he is also Head of The Stanislavski Centre. Paul has a Master’s degree from The University of London and a PhD from The University of Manchester. His special research interest is in the relationship between opera, the opera singer and the early pre-sound film industry, and he has published widely in this area: his seven books include the first English-language biography of the singer Lina Cavalieri (2004), ‘The Opera Singer and The Silent Film’ (2005), the first chronology of opera performances at the Mariinsky Theatre (2009) and an edited collection of essays, ‘Women in the Arts in the Belle Epoque’(2012). His most recent book, ‘Opera in the Media Age’, will be published by McFarland in summer 2014. He is co-editor of the e-journal, ‘Stanislavski Studies’, and curated the exhibition and accompanying lecture series, ‘Stanislavski on Stage’, at Pushkin House in January 2013.

Paul has lectured and introduced film screenings internationally: at The BFI (London), The Library of Congress (Washington DC), in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, for the inaugural season of Canadian Opera at the Four Seasons Opera House in Toronto and accompanying the Ring cycle at Seattle Opera, in Russia and The Czech Republic. He was a regular presenter at The Buxton Opera Festival.

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