classical music, opera, theatre

Michael Curtiz: The Last Dawn

one interval
Festival Theatre
  • Produced by Müpa Budapest

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What kind of music was used to accompany the films of the silent era? The truth is, we know very little about the subject. The major cinemas employed a pianist or organist, or even an entire orchestra, to accompany their films. At this concert/film screening, we will get a taste of each of these, with the second half of the evening featuring a true film rarity with reconstructed orchestral accompaniment: The Last Dawn, a recently rediscovered 1917 work by Michael Curtiz, who was born in Hungary as Mihály Kertész and later went on to become a star Hollywood director.

Music has played a key role in film history from the very beginning, although in the era of silent films its function was limited to providing audio accompaniment. Smaller venues might have a piano to accompany screenings, with pocket-sized salon orchestras playing in the medium-sized cinemas, and the larger establishments deploying an organ or even a chamber orchestra. This concert starts by presenting the different types of musical accompaniment for silent films, with specific film excerpts introduced by film historian Márton Kurutz, before moving on in the second half of the evening to a screening of the full early silent film The Last Dawn by the legendary director of Casablanca, Michael Curtiz, shot while he was still living in Hungary, with the live musical accompaniment reconstructed from the documents of the time. What does reconstruction mean in this instance? We have imagined the Festival Theatre as one of the larger Pest cinemas from early in the last century, with a chamber orchestra (Budapest Sound Collective, conducted by Gergely Dubóczky) there to accompany the films. Since a ‘soundtrack' in those days entailed a motley mix of classical music hits, composer Máté Balogh and musicologist Gergely Fazekas are preparing a musical selection for the film that includes excerpts from pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Wagner and other composers to provide the musical background for this film rarity depicting aristocrats in an exotic setting.

This programme is taking place in collaboration with the National Film Institute.

Presented by: Müpa Budapest


  • Gergely Dubóczky
  • piano, theatre organ
    László Fassang
  • presenter
    Gergely Fazekas
  • expert
    Márton Kurutz
  • Budapest Sound Collective
  • arranged by
    Máté Balogh

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