On 7 March Frank Strobel conducts Carl Davis’ score for Rupert Julian’s film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera with the Belgian National Orchestra at BOZAR, Brussels. The 1925 silent movie is based on Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel, and tells the story of a disfigured, obsessive musical genius who haunts the Paris opera, mesmerised by the talent and beauty of the young soprano Christine.

The 93-minute score for large orchestra encourages sympathetic understanding of the enigmatic Phantom, refusing to paint him as wholly evil - a masterful example of the ways in which Davis’ music underlines the complex nuances of Lon Chaney’s commanding. Davis’ original music is interwoven with excerpts from Gounod’s Faust, the opera at the centre of the tale, creating the effect of overhearing the opera as if from a dressing room or backstage, following the movements of the camera around the theatre. The transcription of the famous ‘Jewel Song’ scene – during which the chandelier fatally crashes onto the diva – is ominously overlaid with percussion and climactically interrupted with a dissonant chord from the Phantom’s organ.

The acclaimed score premiered at the 1996 Edinburgh Film Festival and has since been performed over fifty times, including by the Hallé, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, with Davis frequently conducting. Two further performances of the score have been announced for January 2025 by the Nürnberger Symphoniker, conducted by Adrian Prabava.

Frank Strobel has a longstanding relationship with Davis’ silent movie scores, conducting over 25 performances of them in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Finland, and leading numerous national premieres including The Adventurer, The Crowd, A Woman of Affairs, Intolerance, Behind the Screen, The Cure and The Immigrant. Most recently in 2021 he conducted two performances of Davis’ 1987 score for Fred Niblo’s Ben-Hur with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich.

Davis drew on themes for the Phantom from his 1996 movie score in the creation of Le Fantôme et Christine (2023), his final stage work. A two-act 140-minute ballet score commissioned by Shanghai Ballet and choreographed by Derek Deane, this new realisation of the story transformed Christine from opera singer to ballerina.