Los Angeles Music Review: BEYOND LA DOLCE VITA (L’Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema at Royce Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on November 26, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Last Friday, 50-plus members of the Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema (beefed up with local talent) gathered under the baton of Daniele Belardinelli for artistic director Marco Patrignani’s multimedia symphony concert, Beyond La Dolce Vita. Since the concert was co-presented by the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, UCLA’s Royce Hall was abuzz with molti italiani who came to hear the greatest music and watch clips from the films of Federico Fellini, arguably one of the most significant filmmakers of the 20th century.

Honoring the 20th anniversary of Fellini’s death, the Orchestra rivaled the greatest studio musicians in the world as they thrillingly recreated ten scores of Nino Rota, including musical highlights from La Strada (1954), Le Notti di Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 1/2 (1963), The Clowns (1970), Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973), Casanova (1976), and Prova D’Orchestra (1979). These pseudo symphonic 2 OIC- La Dolce Vitamini-suites were not arranged like Litton’s full-length Porgy and Bess Suite; rather they were snippets that usually lasted about five minutes.

The stunning virtuosity and proficient musicianship from the first Italian symphonic ensemble devoted exclusively to the interpretation of soundtracks was surprisingly fantastic. While the arrangements themselves were more-or-less recreations rather than elucidations, the beautiful blend and exquisite orchestrations validated the genius of Rota, who not only composed for Fellini and Luchino Visconti, but is well-remembered for his bittersweet melodies from Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Coppola’s Godfather movies. It is Rota’s unforgettable, mercurial music that instills Fellini’s rambling, circus-like films with a dreamy quality and a quirky drive, even as Fellini’s characters—as French critic Andre Bazin noted—often do not evolve, they ripen.

Also fascinating were the title cards and documentary clips shown before some of the musical passages which had Fellini waxing philosophical about his filmmaking style: “Even if I set out to make a film about a fillet of sole, it would still be about 1 OIC - La Dolce Vitame” and “The visionary is the only true realist” are chewy insights into the master of natural surrealism.

Sadly, this celebration of the Maestro’s life and achievements went awry in the multi-media presentation. First, the screen (more like a back wall) sat behind the orchestra, and the projected images often lit some of the players, occasionally blocking the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The film size changed often; sometimes the material fit the screen and other times it became warped by both the proscenium and the orchestra shell ceiling panels. The music didn’t always match the clips, and with all those clips at their disposal, some were even repeated.

Efforts were made to frame some material in moving Fantasia-like musical notes or flowers or leaves, but at the center of the screen were (we assumed) artist renderings and costume designs, placards, and—oddly—a few film stills that remained 1012722_673331302685195_883290816_nstationary for an entire mini-suite. For the final two pieces—gorgeous and positively sumptuous renderings of Nicola Piovani’s work from La Voce della Luna (1990) and Ginger e Fred (1985)—the multi-media dropped out completely.

It may be stereotyping, but Italians are not known for punctuality; as if to celebrate their culture, the event began 35 minutes late. Still, I must reiterate how wonderful the music was. This affair could easily be reimagined with more professional multi-media (such as that on their web site) and longer pieces with interpretive passages and segues. If that were to happen, L’Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema could easily fill the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which would be a perfect venue for such an event.

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photos from previous events courtesy of L’Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema

Beyond La Dolce Vita
L’Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema
presented in collaboration with CAP UCLA
Royce Hall
played on November 22, 2013
for more info, visit Orchestra Italiana del Cinema
for future CAP UCLA events, visit CAP UCLA

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