Intersections Study Day

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11:05–11:55 Session 2. Opera and other genres

Lidia López, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,

Carmen in silent film music. Uses and abuses of Bizet’s opera as a representation of Spanish identity during Hollywood’s Golden Age

During the late 1910s and 1920s (years known as Hollywood’s Golden Age), musicians who worked in theatres accompanying silent films had a wide range of possibilities to put music into films. The cue sheets, photoplay music compilations, or encyclopaedias with musical recommendations were the most used resources. In this context, the opera Carmen was one of the preferred scores as music for the image, particularly, when the film’s plot was located in Spain, or it represented the exoticism of the Hispanic world. Since its inception, Bizet’s opera pictured Spanish culture as dangerous, sensual, and exotic, resulting very attractive for the North American audience, where the music publishers began to sell arrangements and transcriptions of the main arias of the opera with commercial success.

This paper studies the uses of the opera Carmen in silent cinema throughout the first decades of the 20th century, analysing in which films, situations, and characters its music was proposed. To this end, I worked with a selection of Spanish-themed motion pictures and cue sheets provided by the Film Study Center of the George Eastman House (Rochester, NY). Furthermore, I deepen into the aesthetics of the scores tagged as ‘Spanish music’ of Rapee’sEncyclopaedia and a selection of photoplay music compilations, where the original compositions are so stylistically similar to the prior opera that it is only possible to consider them as plagiarism.

Lidia López is a Lecturer at the Musicology Department at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where she achieved her PhD in 2014. Her primary research fields include audiovisual analysis, film music, and music in video games. She has published widely in high-ranked publishers such as Routledge, Peter Lang, and Waxmann Verlag. She has participated as a guest speaker in several national and international conferences, co-directed the III Sound Transit International Conference (Mataró, 2019), and is a member of the MUSC-UAB Research Group (Music in Contemporary Societies), the SSIT Research Group (Tecnocampus, Pompeu Fabra), and the Executive Committee of the SSSMG [Society for the Study of Sound and Music in Games].  She is currently editing a volume on Popular Music in Spanish Cinema, which will be published in Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series in 2023, and has signed a contract with Palgrave for a book titled Music, Sound, and Identity in Video Games.


The Didone Project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC)
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme,
Grant agreement No. 788986.