Max Schreck stars in "Nosferatu."
“Vintage” is currently golden. The demand for all things retro defies our digital age. Whether it’s a diss to digital perfection, or just a case of future shock, old is new again. And silent movies have made the cut, ironically due to the reissue of digitally remastered classics.
At New Haven’s Lyric Hall Theater, a new monthly Silent-Film Series has been selling out the house since it began in April. Films are accompanied by a new score performed live by the 10-piece Lyric Hall Theater Orchestra, which punctuates the storyline and adds another dimension to the experience.
The series was the brainchild of saxophonist Steve Asetta of Monroe, who leads the talented orchestra, selects the films and composes an original score for each one. “I’ve never heard the original soundtrack to any of these movies,” says Asetta. “I depend on the visuals to suggest the mood and themes to me, and I also create a theme for each of the characters.” Tod Browning’s The Unknown starring Joan Crawford and Lon Chaney was the first film in the series, followed by The Navigator with Buster Keaton.
But the show couldn’t go on without John Cavaliere, owner of Lyric Hall and series coproducer. In 2007, Cavaliere bought the old circa-1912 vaudeville and silent-film house once known as the West Rock Theater, moved his antiques and conservation business there, and began painstakingly restoring the 40-seat theater, adding classic touches including Doric columns with gilded details to the proscenium. The result is a dramatic but intimate venue, perfect for experiencing the revival of silents.
Asetta’s plans include recording the new scores and touring. “I’d like to take the show on the road,” he says. “There are silent-film festivals—some at universities. But this theater will always be our home base.”
F.W. Murnau’s creepy horror flick, Nosferatu (1922), starring Max Schreck (pictured), is up next, with screenings at 7 & 9 on June 25 and a matinee at 2 on June 26.
For info, call (203) 562-3946, visit steveasetta.com, or see Lyric Hall Theater Orchestra on Facebook.