Are you tired of watching movies at home but aren’t quite ready to return to a multiplex?
Wolf Trap is screening movies accompanied live by the National Symphony Orchestra.
“There’s a huge screen above the orchestra, bigger than any indoor IMAX screen you can imagine, that almost covers the entire stage,” conductor Emil de Cou told WTOP. “On the lawn, we also have two screens for people who can watch while having a picnic. They have extracted the orchestra soundtrack from the movie and we play it live the way it was recorded in the studio.”
Thursday brings Mark Knopfler’s score to Rob Reiner’s “The Princess Bride” (1987).
The conductor said the music was originally recorded with guitar, synthesizer and singers, so the NSO performance will be something new. “Even if you know the movie really well, you might not know the music is that tender and that beautiful,” de Cou said. “You get to enjoy this fairytale classic in a way that you’ve never heard it before.”
He said the music features tons of callbacks to old swashbuckling scores of the 1940s.
“Reiner was such a smart director, because it’s done as a tribute and almost a spoof to those Errol Flynn movies. … [Composer Erich Wolfgang] Korngold was a child genius … before he went to Hollywood.”
Friday brings John Williams’ iconic score to George Lucas’ “Star Wars” (1977).
“It’s hard to imagine a world without John Williams’ score of ‘Star Wars,'” de Cou said. “It starts with the Fox fanfare, which we play live, then the famous text scrolls into the horizon. I’m watching a clock, and on this millisecond, this gigantic B-flat major chord bursts out … and the words ‘STAR WARS’ burst onto the screen at the exact same time the full orchestra erupts; it’s just thrilling.”
He said the “Star Wars” theme rivals the best classical compositions in history.
“He uses Wagnerian compositional devices,” de Cou said. “Taking all of these leitmotifs of themes that you identity with different characters, the heroic themes, and how they come back, it’s awe-inspiring.” The conductor said he studies them “like Beethoven symphonies. … John Williams took such care to develop this in such a sophisticated way.”
Based in San Francisco, de Cou has been performing virtual concerts throughout the pandemic, a process he called “totally counterintuitive” without the energy of the audience.
“I’m really looking forward to these performances. It’ll be the first time in front of an audience since I was last in Washington with Diana Ross before the shutdown [in January 2020]. … You don’t realize how important these things are to you until they’re gone.”
You could say the same about the music soundtrack to a film.
“You can’t imagine a movie without music,” de Cou said. “Film composers are like an opera or a symphony composer. They plant little seeds along the way. … When you get to the end and you weep, it’s because you’ve planted all these little emotional cues along the way like a device.”