A Night at the Opera

Sunday 19th September / 12PM @ The Maltings Theatre

Groucho, Chico and Harpo turn an opera performance into utter chaos in one of the greatest comedies of all time. Come and join the Marx Brothers at their boisterous best.

A Night at the Opera kicks off with irreverent wisecracks and ends in joyous chaos, with love and mayhem triumphing over stuffiness. Along the way, audiences are treated to some of cinema’s most famous comic scenes, involving beard and bed swapping, a crowded boat cabin and a foolish sanity clause, and infused throughout with The Marx Brothers’ unique combination of absurd punning, slapstick, farce and social satire.

Though many Marx Brothers fans may argue that Duck Soup is their best ever film, A Night at the Opera is rightly regarded as their most accomplished cinematic achievement. At the time of its release, Duck Soup had proved a commercial and critical flop, which led to the termination of the brothers’ contract with Paramount. Their movie career showed no hope of being revived; the brothers were forced to take a breather, with Chico indulging in a fair amount of gambling. While playing bridge in L.A., he befriended one Irving Thalberg, a formidable card player who happened to be MGM’s Head of Production.

A respected and astute producer, Thalberg took care, for their first feature together, to build a more solid cinematic structure within which the Marx Brothers’ peculiar brand of gags could shine. He appointed a strong screenwriting team, insisted on integrating a romantic sub-plot and a more mainstream musical element into the mix, and upped the production values substantially. The brothers’ previous incarnation as stars of the Broadway and West End stages was also put to good use, with Thalberg sending them on a short tour to road-test the storylines, accompanied by two of the film’s screenwriters, some of the main cast and a few attentive assistants with stopwatches. The laughs were meticulously timed; the gags were re-written and honed, after each performance, on the strength of audiences’ reactions. By the time the film went into production, each comedy routine, and each line of dialogue had been perfectly polished.

The result proved a massive box-office and critical hit, which continues to delight cinema audiences to this day, three-quarters of a century after it was first released.
 

 

The Marx Brothers Profile

The Marx Brothers comprises of Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo. The family lived in New York, USA supported by their mother and father, Minnie and Simon. Minnie helped her brother Al Sheen to get into show business and decided early that her children should follow him. Chico played the piano in pubs; Groucho sang as a boy soprano. The Brothers appeared as The Four Nightingales and The Six Mascots. The first performance in the Marx Brothers style
as we know it was Fun in Hi Skule in 1912. From 1929 on they were mainly active in film. In their first films they appeared as The Four Marx Brothers (Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo), but Zeppo left the movie business after Duck Soup.
 

Selected Filmography (The Marx brothers)

1933 Duck Soup
1935 A Night at the Opera
1937 A Day at the Races
1939 At the Circus
1940 Go West
1946 A Night in Casablanca
1949 Love Happy
 

< Back to Programme
Artist Sam Wood Country USA Year 1935 Duration 91 minutes Cert U