La Svengali

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Female singer from the George Du Maurier novel Trilby, set in 1850s Paris. First published as a serial in 1894 in Harper's Monthly, it was published in book form in 1895.

Trilby O'Ferrall, a tone deaf, half-Irish laundress, falls under the spell of Svengali, who through hypnotism, turns her into the talented singing sensation "la Svengali," but only when she is under his hypnosis.

The novel gave us:

  • the term "Svengali"
  • partly inspired Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera (1910)
  • named a hat called the trilby.


  • The novel was adapted into a long-running play, Trilby, starring Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Svengali, premiering in London in 1895.
  • The play was so popular it was parodied as A Model Trilby; or, A Day or Two After Du Maurier by Charles H. E. Brookfield and William Yardley, 1895.
  • Trilby, a 1914 British silent film starring Viva Birkett and Herbert Beerbohm Tree
  • Trilby, a 1915 American silent film starring Clara Kimball Young and Wilton Lackaye
  • Trilby, a 1923 American silent film starring Andree Lafayette, Arthur Edmund Carewe and Creighton Hale
  • Svengali, a 1927 German silent film starring Paul Wegener
  • Svengali, a 1931 Warner Brothers release with John Barrymore in the title role.
  • Svengali, a 1954 British film starring Donald Wolfit
  • Svengali, a 1983 TV movie starring Peter O'Toole and Jodie Foster
  • Svengali, a 1991 stage musical adaptation by Frank Wildhorn