UW News

June 15, 2012

Lost and Found Films: An opera scene from 1952

UW News

The Lost and Found Films series certainly has served up some oddities: blurry banquets, meandering ceremonies, half-lit University District scenes and more. To maintain this level of weirdness, this week we present a three-minute film apparently from a campus opera. Oh, and don’t adjust your volume — it’s silent.

“Barber Opera, Take #1” is in color, 16 mm, and dates back to 1952. We see a man dressed in foppish period garb with a white wig and bushy mustache and eyebrows to match. He holds forth entertainingly at center stage, flourishing a handkerchief for emphasis. Then an owlish character dressed in black with oversized spectacles swoops into the scene and the two sing an animated conversation. They finish together, bow deeply, and the lights fade to black.

This is one of hundreds of reels of film that Hannah Palin, film archives specialist with UW Libraries Special Collections, is trying to identify for archiving purposes. She has film clips from the late 1930s through the 1970s, from research projects, campus events, even from commercial films or original campus productions such as this opera appears to be.

Audio was almost certainly recorded to match this film, (because making silent films of operas is just silly), but it has been lost.

Palin notes the film leader and can for this film are labeled “May 1952, KC Orig.” She asks, is this a scene from “The Barber of Seville”? And, does anyone have any idea who the two performers are?

So, if you have any more information about this 60-year-old film gem, this is your cue to add a comment below.

  • Also, see Palin in an upcoming episode of UW 360 as the UWTV magazine-style show interviews her about managing the UW’s vast and varied film archives.


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