In a summer of big outdoor shows, who’d have thought that one of the hottest tickets would be Ennio Morricone’s debut performances in the Republic of Ireland. The first date sold out in 8 minutes, quite a feat given the price of the tickets and the continuing economic woes of our impoverished isle. Chancellor Merkel would’ve been sending in the auditors and bean counters to squeeze more cents out of our coffers if she’d caught wind of it.
Regardless, the chattering classes have gathered for a night of movie music provided by the undisputed king of the cinema soundtrack. Morricone’s works are known and enjoyed in a way that none of the other great soundtrack-ers of our time are. John Barry, John Williams or Hans Zimmer just don’t occupy the same place in the imagination and psyche of a society raised in the reflection of the silver screens flickering light. From Leone’s deconstruction of the heroic myth in his Spaghetti Westerns to Tarantino’s homage to past masters in Django Unchained, Ennio has provided the aural experience to enhance what the celluloid visionaries created. It’s impossible to hear his music without replaying scenes from the movies in the mind’s eye and, conversely, it’s impossible to see a still from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly without hearing an “Ah-e-ah-e-ah, wah wah wah” ringing though your ears.
By way of warm up, we are treated to a screening of 1988’s Cinema Paradiso, the closing scenes framed by a post summer shower’s rainbow. The nice polite people of the Lyric FM brigade have already taken to their rain sodden seats as the musicians and singers take to the stage. The 84 year old assumes his position at the podium, treated to a standing ovation before a note is played. The love for this man and his music is palatable in the humid air of the darkening night.
And then it begins….
Sometimes words aren’t enough and that’s why we have art. Musically and visually artists can convey the wealth and depth of the human condition in a way that is beyond language either spoken or written. There are no words adequate to describe what it feels like to experience the tsunami of sound powered by the full force of The Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra and The Dublin Gospel Choir. Hollow sounding accolades and hyperbolic rhetoric can barely begin to communicate the beauty created by the 97 piece orchestra and 100 strong choir under the baton of Maestro. Epic, majestic, cinematic, powerful, moving – all words that spring to mind and begin to do it justice but they ultimately fail to capture the privilege of watching and hearing 200 virtuosos perform before our own eyes.
After the introductory ‘Varianti Su Un Segamant Di Polizia’ and a collection of lesser known works from the late ’60s and early ’70s labelled together as Scattered Sheets for the purpose of tonight’s performance, Ennio brings us to the promised land with the segment of the concert entitled The Modernity of Myth In Sergio Leone’s Cinema. During this section we travel from the title track of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, to A Fist Full of Dynamite via Once Upon a Time In The West and back to The Good, The Bad… for ‘L’Estasi dell’Oro (The Ecstasy of the Gold)’. For this last piece Morricone leaves the stage to bring out tonight’s star soprano Susanna Rigacci. As the song climaxes her voice soars above that of the Dublin Gospel Choir, as together they and their fellow musicians in the orchestra transport us to the sun flared desert landscapes occupied by the anti-heroic cheroot chewing Blondie and co. An inevitable standing ovation follows. Maybe if words of eloquence fail us then the vernacular of the youth might suffice. If that is the case then, this sh1t is off the hook.
‘Deborah’s Theme’ from Once Upon A Time In America follows in all of its heart aching glory, the darkening Dublin sky replacing the mean streets of Leone’s Lower East Side as the musical drama unfolds. Stunning stuff but less successful is ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Barria’ and a duo of tunes in tribute to fellow Italian director Mauro Bolognini. It’s during this passage of play that the attention of the gathered masses begins to waver, the enchantment of the music is temporarily broken and whilst the rain hasn’t returned since the opening number we’re back in our dampened shells, exposed in the chilling air.
‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ is warmly greeted as we sail back to familiar waters for a trio of tunes from 1986’s The Mission. ‘Falls’ follows and just when you think it can’t get any better than this, ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’ brings the final section of tonight’s performance to a sublime conclusion. I said earlier that words cannot convey what is witnessed here tonight but if there is a God up there somewhere and the angels serenade and give praise to the omnipotent one then this triumphant joyful crescendo of choral voices and instrumentation is what it would surely sound like.
Ennio returns for one final piece and then after soaking up one last standing ovation, he’s gone. The concert ends as abruptly as one of tonight’s summer showers. The spell is broken, we return to our secular corporeal world but the magic lingers in the air. A truely remarkable occasion and an utterly unique talent. Buona sera signor Morricone e grazie di tutto.