Did You Know? The Phantom of the Opera: Silent Film with Live Music Featuring Aaron David Miller, organ

September 22, 2022

Improvising in plain sight on Northop’s historic Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 pipe organ Sun, Oct 2, Aaron David Miller provides the soundtrack to the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera—written by eight screenwriters including Elliott J. Clawson and Frank M. McCormack, and directed by Lon Chaney, Rupert Julian, Edward Sedgwick, and Ernst Laemmle.

This  adventure-filled horror film follows the story oft the infamous organist (Lon Chaney) who lurks beneath a Parisopera house while attempting to make the woman he loves (Mary Philbin) a star. The film also features Norman Kerry as Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, Arthur Edmond Carewe as The Persian and Gibson Gowland as Simon Buquet.


This classic silent film screening with musical accompaniment was part of Northrop’s 2022-23 Film Series, a must-see for film buffs, music lovers, and the historically curious.

Historical image of a screening of a silent film with organist and audience facing the screen.

The Ambiance of Silent Cinema

Silent films were never intended to be silent. From the earliest days of the silent film era, motion pictures were accompanied by live musicians—and audiences were often talking, cheering, hissing, and booing at the various characters on the screen. Going to a silent film could be an interactive experience for all!

Historical image of the Astor Theatre

Premieres Cost a Pretty Penny 

The Phantom of the Opera debuted on Sep 6, 1925, at the Astor Place Theatre in New York City. No expenses were spared as Universal Studios had a full organ installed at the Astor specifically for the event.

Aaron David Miller

An Improvisatory Champion

Known for his "vivid musical imagination" (NPR), Aaron David Miller is a prizewinner of several prestigious competitions, including the Bach and Improvisation prizes at the Calgary International Organ Festival and the top prize at the American Guild of Organists National Improvisation Competition.

Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera

Lon Chaney: Man of a Thousand Faces

Nicknamed “Man of a Thousand Faces,” actor Lon Chaney was celebrated for his application of make-up and versatility in film. The Phantom of the Opera is notable for Chaney’s intentionally horrific, self-applied make-up, which was kept a studio secret until the film’s premiere, shocking audiences at the theater.

Still of Phantom of the Opera skeleton wearing a read draped robe and hat

An Evolutionary Step in Cinema History

In 1998, The Phantom of the Opera was inducted into the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.” Through its many reissues during the 20th century, the picture introduced audiences to color tinted film, advanced editing techniques, and methods for capturing complex stories.