Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Born Today February 21: Henri Meilhac


French dramatist and librettist Henri Meilhac was born on this day in Paris.  He got his start in writing at a young age, when he went to work writing free-lance works of fancy that he sold to various Parisian newspapers; he also began to write comedy skits for the vaudeville stage.  Somewhere around 1860, he made the acquaintance of fellow writer Ludovic Halévy--their writing collaboration would last for over 20 years.  While he is most famous for co-writing the libretto for Bizet's Carmen, he did work on other librettos and also wrote stage plays--all of which have provided source material for motion pictures.  The very first film to be produced from Carmen was a very early experimental sound film that was produced in 1907.  Carmen (1907) was a British film produced by Gaumont British Picture Corp. and used a sound mix called Chronophone.  The process involved synchronizing sound on vinyl with the action of the film.  It is a short film; lasting only 12 minutes. The first all silent film to use his writing for a scenario came in 1912 with the Italian produced Mam'selle Nitouche; that film was based on the libretto to the operetta of the same name.  In all 11 films using his solo and collaborative work were produced in the silent era. The last of these was the Ernst Lubitsch directed So This Is Paris (1926).  The first sound era film to use his work came in 1931 with the German production of Mam'selle Nitouche.  The latest filmed performance of his work, was in 2015 with The English National Opera's performance of Carmen.  Meilhac died in Paris on July 6 in 1897 at the age of 66.  He is buried in Paris' Montmartre cemetery.

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