The Marina del Rey Symphony kicks off its free outdoor summer concert season with a new live score for Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” and a cinematic edit of Puccini’s “La Bohème”

By Brian Marks

Maestro Frank Fetta conducts the Marina del Rey Symphony in a live cinematic accompaniment to Lon Chaney’s famed silent film

Paris has been immortalized in countless works of art, and now the Marina del Rey Symphony will present its own ode to the City of Light with its annual Opera at the Shore concert next Thursday (July 11) at Burton Chace Park. Unlike past season-opening concerts, this year the orchestra will perform selections from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème” along with a screening of the 1925 Lon Chaney silent film classic “The Phantom of the Opera,” featuring a new score by composer Craig Safan.

“We wanted to do something different this year,” says Frank Fetta, Music Director for the Marina del Rey Symphony. The orchestra performed a live score to Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy “The Kid” in 2017, and Fetta was interested in programming another silent film. Thanks to its opera house setting, “The Phantom” was a logical choice.

“We wanted the operatic theme, and then it also juxtaposes the idea that in the 19th century, opera was the greatest form of entertainment,” explains Fetta, “but in the 20th century we got the advent of film. I thought, ‘Well, what’s the perfect film to do if we’re going to have an operatic theme? Let’s do ‘Phantom of the Opera!’”

Fetta enlisted Safan to provide new music. He’s best known for his scores to “Stand and Deliver,” “The Last Starfighter” and “Cheers,” as well as the live score to the symphony’s previous screening of “The Kid.”

The presence of “The Phantom” also inspired Fetta to radically edit Puccini’s opera.

“We decided to do ‘La Bohème’ in a cinematographic fashion, in that we would use Act II as a prequel to Act III. We break into Act II with Act III, which shows the characters several months later, all arguing and fighting, but they all reconcile in Act III, and that gives us an impetus to return to Act II, where things were all happy and wonderful,” he says, emphasizing the unusual nature of the new edit.

“We’re not at La Scala, we’re not at the Metropolitan Opera, but we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before. I don’t think this pairing has ever been done in the history of
the world!”

Opera at the Shore begins at 7 p.m. Thursday (July 11) at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. Marina del Rey Symphony concerts are free, but parking in L.A. County lots costs $8 to $10. Visit culvercitysymphony.org or beaches.lacounty.gov for more information.

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