The second part of The Immigrant takes place in a New York restaurant where Chaplin, as a penniless refugee, is intimidated by an enormous waiter played by Eric Campbell. For this scene, the singers' text is sung in Russian, the strangeness of the language emphasising the language barrier between Chaplin and the waiter, making them say unexpectedly revealing things and creating a distanced sub-plot concerning the implied fatalism and unhappiness of the characters' lives.
For me, this alienation goes to the heart of the silent film experience, with its strange and dream-like qualities.
Benedict Mason's 'Chaplinopera' (commissioned by the Ensemble Modern) was premiered earlier this month at the Strasbourg MUSICA festival; his ']' is given its British premiere by the London Sinfonietta at the South Bank Centre on Tuesday
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