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Body KnowledgePerformance, Intermediality, and American Entertainment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century$
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Mary Simonson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199898015

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199898015.001.0001

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Filming Opera: Anna Pavlova and The Dumb Girl of Portici

Filming Opera: Anna Pavlova and The Dumb Girl of Portici

Chapter:
(p.161) 6 Filming Opera: Anna Pavlova and The Dumb Girl of Portici
Source:
Body Knowledge
Author(s):

Mary Simonson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199898015.003.0007

In 1916, a silent film of D. F. E. Auber’s 1828 opera La Muette du Portici was released by Universal Studios. The Dumb Girl of Portici, starring famed ballerina Anna Pavlova and directed by Lois Weber, premiered just as Pavlova’s company was touring the nation performing Auber’s opera on stage. These two productions were a potent pair. Onstage and on-screen, Pavlova’s mute performances created mirrorlike intermediality, reflecting one another and Pavlova herself. Taken together, the two performances simultaneously narrate early twentieth-century exploration of cinema technology, its relationship with live performance, and the mediated female body. Through a close analysis of female roles and performance in first the opera and then the film, this chapter explores the ways in which stage and screen constituted both discrete and continuous spaces.

Keywords:   Anna Pavlova, La Muette de Portici, Lois Weber, The Dumb Girl of Portici, silent film, D. F. E. Auber, cinematic technology, live performance, mediation, female body

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