This week has been heavy on the Méliès at Spectacular Attractions. That’s no bad thing, and there’s always room for more. So, here’s an interesting appendix to my long post on the 1902 of A Trip to the Moon/ Le Voyage dans la Lune. These are stereoscope slides of photographs taken of a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s operetta Le Voyage dans la Lune, inspired, like Melies’s film, by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. The operetta was first performed in 1875 and revived periodically for the rest of the 19th century. Produced without Verne’s permission, the similarities were obvious enough for the writer to complain about it in writing. Nearing the end of his life, Offenbach was facing financial difficulty, and decided to write three operettas at once, one of which was Voyage dans la Lune. It was astonishingly opulent, as these images will attest – Alfred Grevin, one of the founders of the world-famous wax museum, designed the 673 costumes used in the production. The All Music Guide has this to say: “Because Offenbach seems to have placed particular emphasis on the music that was to have accompanied the special visual effects, the work is best encountered in its original context, rather than shorn of its visual component. The level of musical craftsmanship does, in any event, reflect the hand of a composer backed by decades of experience, a composer who had by that time become a vital force in the life of French musical theater.”If you read French, you can find the complete libretto here. Find more Jules Verne stereoscope slides at Collecting Jules Verne, my source for these images.
[First Published 8 October 2008; Updated 12 February 2009; 10 June 2010; 24 February 2012; 27 March 2012]
[I’ve been adding to this post occasionally since I first published it on 8th October 2008. I tagged it as a work in progress, but now that I’ve commented a little on every shot, I thought I’d publish the updates (it has more than doubled in length since it first appeared) and declare it (almost) finished. I will continue to update it every once in a while, but I hope you find it interesting and informative in its present form. I still invite comments or further information from anyone who’d like to add to the essay, or who has links or bibliographic references to recommend.]
For the benefit of anyone who is studying this film or just fascinated by it, I’m going to attempt a shot-by-shot commentary on Georges Méliès‘ A Trip to the Moon, released in France on 1st September 1902. It might start out rudimentary and descriptive, but as I add to and re-edit it from time to time it will be embellished with notes garnered from further reading and visitors’ commentaries (feel free to add your observations at the bottom of this post), to see if we can gather together some useful critical annotations for each shot of the film. I’ve included lots of links, some of which expand upon a key point, while others offer a surprising but interesting digression, I hope.