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