Pandora’s Box

New project joins 1920s silent film Pandora’s Box with an original live soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Part of a current international renaissance in silent film, GW Pabst’s 1929 film Pandora’s Box, is screened with a new live score in four venues across the UK this autumn. Commissioned by Opera North Projects, Pandora’s Box will be performed inLondon,Manchester,Leeds andWarwick.

Pandora’s Box is a 1929 silent film made by German director Georg Wilhelm Pabst, which follows the rise and fall of an amoral young prostitute Lulu, featuring a dazzling lead performance by Louise Brooks, a true icon of the silent movie era. A daring and shockingly explicit film for the period it was made, today Brooks’ performance is no less alluring.

The new score for the film is written by Icelandic post-classical composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and cellist and composer Hildur Gudnadóttir (Múm). It will be performed live during the film screenings by Jóhannsson and Gudnadóttir together with clarinettist Dov Goldberg (Psappha), and  experimental turntable artist Philip Jeck, whose distinctive sound is created by expertly mixing, looping and layering extracts from old vinyl records.

Pandora’s Box’s new live soundtrack plays with both contemporary sound and Weimar Republic era references, a period in which modernism and the avant-garde flourished inGermany, as radically subversive forms of artistic expression pushed at the boundaries of taste and permissiveness.

Jóhann Jóhannsson, composer, comments:

“I’ve been fascinated with the film Pandora’s Box since I saw it as part of a G.W. Pabst double feature in St. Marks Theatre in New York years ago. It sparked an interest in Louise Brooks – I became fascinated by her life and character and struck by how it sometimes paralleled that of the self-destructive Lulu.  

“Rather than simply write a new score for silent film, our intention is to produce a piece which highlights the complexity and ambiguity of the character of Lulu.”

Jo Nockels, Projects Manager at Opera North, comments:

We’ve long felt that the marriage between silent film and contemporary live music felt particularly appropriate to GW Pabst’s electrifying Pandora’s Box. This is partly because of the rich history of manifestations of the Lulu story across theatre, film and opera and partly because the film feels almost shockingly immediate to watch, more than 80 years after it was made.  Working with Jóhann and Hildur opens an almost operatic range of musical possibilities in the creation of a new score that explores the film, its contexts and the  ever-elusive figure of Lulu herself.”

The new live score for Pandora’s Box is commissioned by Opera North Projects, which has been a vital part of Opera North for over 10 years, bringing classical and contemporary arts together in an eclectic year-round programme of performance. Projects take apart the elements of opera – words, music, visual arts and theatre – and put them back together in new ways. Opera North Projects produces small-scale touring shows, site-specific performance and commissions, as well as curating the public programme of events in the Howard Assembly Room,Leeds.

Performance dates:

Pandora’s Box


31 October 2012                              Islington Assembly Hall, London

1 November 2012                           Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

2 November 2012                          Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

3 November 2012                          Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

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