Animating antiquity in the Vision animée

Fuchs, S. (2018) Animating antiquity in the Vision animée. Cambridge Opera Journal, 30 (2-3) pp. 115-137. ISSN 0954-5867 (print) 1474-0621 (online)


In 1900, the soprano Jeanne Hatto recorded a scene from Gluck's 1779 opera Iphigénie en Tauride for the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, an exhibit at the Paris Exposition Universelle that screened silent films manually synchronised with cylinder recordings. Recently restored and digitised by the Cinémathèque Française and the Gaumont Pathé Archives, Hatto's film affords us a glimpse into the revitalising force ascribed to female performers around the turn of the century: the ability to bring ancient statues – and antiquity itself – to life through physical movement. Through their embodiment of ancient Greek figures on stage and in visions animées, prima donnas laid claim to a form of corporeal authority that had all but disappeared from the French stage over the preceding century.

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