Saturday evening NJPAC’s Prudential Hall filled nearly to capacity. Some fifty musicians from New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) took the stage beneath a vast projection screen. Conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos mounted the podium and led them in a Pops concert, playing Max Steiner’s film score in a synchronised screening of the 1942 classic “Casablanca.”
If you only recall the Herman Hupfeld tune “As Time Goes By” from the film, that may be because the leading characters make such a big deal of it. Yet the presence of a live orchestra made the audience aware of just how much more music figures into “Casablanca.” Max Steiner set other existing numbers, like “It Had to Be You” from 1924 (music by Isham Jones, lyrics by Gus Kahn), and “La Marseillaise,” France’s national anthem, recurrently from the brilliant overture.
But the real discovery was the original music by Max Steiner himself, atmospheric passages aptly energising populous scenes or softly supporting quieter moments with tender melodies.
Initially, orchestra competed with sound system, which amplified only the recorded dialogue, rendering a few lines indistinct; the same occurred late in the film during a crucial scene between the characters Rick Blaine and Ilse Lund (played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman). Once balance problems resolved, the two sound sources got along swimmingly in an organic whole with the spectacular cinematography, the lighting of which made one forget it was filmed in black and white.
Maestro Kitsopoulos said in a telephone interview Friday that he enjoys performing similar screenings. Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” with a score by Bernard Herrmann, figures into his repertoire along with programs of film highlights. “The Wizard of Oz,” coming up in NJSO’s 2013-14 season, gives him the opportunity, as he puts it, to work with Judy Garland. Frequent collaborator John Goberman is presently arranging the score to “Singin’ in the Rain,” available to orchestras sometime this summer.
Unfortunately, synchronised screenings are infrequent events these days. Saturday night in Casablanca proved that they are worth calendaring—not to be missed. Will you come along to the Land of Oz in April 2014?
Subscribe for free to my columns. Have your friends do the same! Just use the links below to take you to the respective pages; then click the “Subscribe” button, and you’re a few easy steps away from receiving a free E-mail message each time I publish an article. You will never be charged for subscribing or for reading E-mail notices or articles.
Newark Performing Arts column
Finally, leave a polite comment below about your attendance at performances or your plans to attend.