Assunta Spina (1915)
The Immigrant (1917)
Silent Film Scores with live accompaniment
by John T. La Barbera
Assunta Spina- Salvatore Di Giacomo’s Assunta Spina (1915), starring the queen of the Italian silent screen, Francesca Bertini, with John T. La Barbera newly composed score under his direction, performed live, enhancing the realism experience.
Mandolins enhance Napoli and Bertini- "... To all this we add the soundtrack of
John La Barbera, a score that without falling into the stereotype of the Neapolitan song, knows how to be in line with the translation." Nico Nanni, Il Gazzettino di Pordenone.
"I felt like I was transported back in time to the beginning of the 20th century"..
"Bravo, the musical accompaniment was amazing "
Dr. Joseph Scelsa. The Italian American Museum, NYC
..” La Barbera’s newly composed score (Assunta Spina) was masterly performed and superbly accentuated the story without ever overshadowing the film….the transition from scene to scene and changes in dramatic sequences were virtually seamless…”
John Napoli. Il Regno, Ethno-cultural journal for people of Southern Italian descent
Based on Salvatore Di Giacomo’s play, Assunta Spina, was filmed on location in Naples in 1914 and was produced and released by Caesar Film in 1915 in Italy. It features the Queen of Italian silent screen Francesca Bertini, who is credited with directing the film together with her co-star, Gustavo Serena. It is an operatic tale of love and sacrifice in working class turn of the century Naples and can be considered to be one of the first films of Italian Neorealism. Bertini’s performance set a new standard for Italian cinema. Filmed on location in Naples. Running time is 1:02:14 minutes.
For this score, arranged for mandolin/violin and guitar, LaBarbera creates an intimate atmosphere by keeping an accompaniment of emotions found in the melodic themes of the characters in a leitmotif style to highlight the melodramatic and picturesque style of the film. As the film captures glimpses of life on the streets of Naples, references to popular traditional music can be seen in the background shots. From dancing the polka accompanied by serenading musicians to pastoral shepherds playing bagpipes for Christmas, he presents a glimpse into this period by using the rhythms of tarantella, polka, tango, waltzes, and pastoral serenades, to enhance the realism surrounding the circumstances of Assunta’s tragic and passionate story.
The Immigrant – directed by Charlie Chaplin was released in 1917. It also stars Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell and Albert Austin. It is a silent romantic comedy short. Based on Chaplin’s own experiences as an immigrant coming to America, he skillfully turns an otherwise traumatic experience into a humoristic one filled with funny gags on the trans Atlantic voyage that eventually turns into a romantic relationship with a fellow passenger, played by Edna Purviance.
For this score, arranged for violin (or mandolin) and guitar, LaBarbera creates an intimate atmosphere by keeping an accompaniment of emotions found in the melodic themes of the characters in a leitmotif fashion to highlight the comedic slapstick and romantic style of the film.
Wilson Montouri, John T. La Barbera, and Susan Aquila at World Premier : Casa Italiana of NYU -2017