Henry Hadley (1871-1937) conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the overture to Wagner's "Tannhäuser." Two cameras provide some visual variation: a stationary one that shows Hadley and the full orchestra of more than 80 musicians, and one that does a modest amount of panning and is closer to the musicians, usually showing us about 15 within the frame. All are men, in tuxedos. No words are spoken in this early talkie. Written by
One of the series of Vitaphone shorts that played on the program of the screen premiere of DON JUAN -- itself a landmark as the first feature film with a full synchronized score -- this is nothing more or less than a performance of the Metropolitan Opera company playing.... well, the overture to TANNHAUSER, in the pit at the old Opera House.
The camera is leaden, as you might expect. There are two basic camera positions, a medium long shot with most of the orchestra in view, and a closer camera. The second is the one that moves a bit in pans, mostly to show you the flautists to the left of conductor Henry Hadley.
The sound is also pretty good, although a bit thin in the upper registers. Still, given the restrictions of the era, this is an important document of the era, as it was meant to be. And the performance is, as one would expect of the Met, excellent.
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