Last Sunday, March 4th, 2018, Ennio Morricone gave a concert in Turin (Italy) as part of his 2018 tour (read news). Gorka Oteiza from SoundTrackFest was there and has written this article about that evening.
Turin was the second city scheduled in the concerts that Ennio Morricone will conduct in 2018 with his tour ‘The 60 Years of Music Tour’, a tour that began in 2016, and that against all expectations, was extended to 2017 and now to 2018, giving us the opportunity to continue enjoying the art and music of the maestro live, with an orchestra conducted by himself.
Tickets for this concert, which could be purchased online but could only be collected at the box office (unless they were sent to an address in Italy), sold out in a short time, something quite usual, as being able to experience Maestro Ennio Morricone live is something special that has to be enjoyed in every chance you have.
Being 89 years old and turning 90 in November 2018, maestro Morricone still has energy, burst, and spirit to continue touring. Something exceptional. A true Italian character, full of strength and determination.
The concert was held on the outskirts of Turin, in a large stadium used for big sports events and mass concerts: the Pala Alpitour. With a capacity for almost 15,000 people and with about 12,000 seats in total, when it was time to prepare it for the concert one of the sides was occupied with the stage, so counting the chairs located in the arena and the rest of seats in the stands, it is estimated that there were about 10,000 seats available. And yes, all of them were sold. The place was full!!
Sunday, March 4th, was curiously also the day of the Italian General Elections in addition of being the day of the concert. Arriving at the venue in advance was a good idea, as the access was agile and very well organized, but it seems that the people who arrived much later had some problems, both when collecting tickets with large queues, and also when passing strict security controls. This caused the concert to start later than scheduled; approximately 25 minutes after the initial time, but this delay did not affect the duration or quality of the concert, as we can read at the end of this article.
Inside the premises of the Pala Alpitour, and before accessing the arena, several food and drink stalls had been placed in addition to an official merchandising stand, where books and records of maestro Morricone could be purchased, as well as the official program of the tour (a program that although it had an additional sheet with the themes that were going to be part of the concert, it had slight modifications later).
Before going into the details of the concert’s program, I would like to highlight how good the sound of the whole event was and how well the place was prepared acoustically. You could see that all the entrances to the interior from the corridors were covered by huge black fabrics, which were used as acoustic screens to avoid unwanted echoes and sound bouncing. This is very important in a venue where acoustics had not been the main architectural concern in its design and construction. You could also see fabrics in the upper parts of the bleachers, on some lateral areas, and on the sides of the stage. All of them placed strategically acting as barriers and creating a closed enclosure for the sound, in which the engineers could have more control of the acoustics.
On the arena you could see a large mix and control desk, from which all sound parameters were managed and equalized, which then came out through the booster speakers, amplifying the natural sound (something logical for a venue of this size and characteristics). In summary, the amplification, equalization and sound management was very well planned and very well executed. (Something that did not happen with the concert that was held in Antwerp in 2016, which you can read in the following article – read article).
The full program of the concert was as follows:
Before talking about the concert in detail, I want to point out that it was structured in several blocks, each one dedicated to a specific theme, including pieces from various movies. These pieces usually formed a suite, so the music flowed from one to another without pauses and without transitions, in a smooth way and with very good arrangements, so you could think that it was a single suite of many minutes instead of several pieces “stitched together”, if you didn’t know the music well.
On the other hand, there was no visual reinforcement such as videos or images accompanying the music, something that in fact was not really necessary. The lights were only used to lit the soprano or maestro Morricone at some moments when he addressed the audience, or maybe some instruments of the orchestra, being mostly used to illuminate the stage without additional effects.
Talking about the concert, I have to say that it started late, after 9:25 pm when almost all people were already in their seats. The people who arrived later, when the main lights were turned off, were accompanied to their seats by ushers with flashlights.
First, the chorus Nuovo Coro Lirico Sinfonico Romano went on stage, followed by the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, both received with a great applause. The chorus Nuovo Coro Lirico Sinfonico Romano was reinforced for the occasion by voices of the choirs Coro dell’Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia and Coro Claudio Casini dell’Università di Roma Tor Vergata.
Shortly afterwards, Ennio Morricone appeared and received a warm and grand applause, including several cheers from the audience. A legend of Italian film music and world film music doesn’t deserve less.
With a slow but firm step and without any help, he approached the center of the stage where he had a chair waiting. Behind the chair, there was a large yellow bar that helped him go up and down the pulpit, in which he would lean when he turned around to greet the audience in the brief breaks between blocks.
The first part of the concert started with a couple of themes from the television series The Bible, being the first The Creation, a rather curious piece that began in a soft and languid way, as if both the orchestra and the choir were warming up and looking for the proper sound, but little by little it started growing and incorporating the different nuances of the instruments and the voices of the choir. Some kind of cacophony that emulated the creation of the world, at the same time that the music and the theme were being built. After almost 10 minutes, and without pause, the theme The Tower of Babel started, where disorderly and excited voices of the choir were having some kind of multilingual dialogue, similar to what it was supposed to happen in the original Babel tower, but here in fact it was very well coordinated.
At the end of the block there was a brief pause where Morricone received the first applause of the night, and then gave way to the section called Scattered Sheets that began with Bugsy, melodic and soft, continuing with the agile and cheerful theme of H2S, typical of Ennio Morricone’s concerts, where the flute and the strings section stood out.
This delicious block, which lasted about 15 minutes, ended with the theme Rabia e Tarantella from the 1973 film Allonsanfàn, although it could also be said that it ended with the theme Ribellione from the 2009 film Baaría, since both are identical, the second one being a revision of the old theme, where the tension and the melody have been maintained, but increasing the rhythm and accentuating the counterpoints.
Rabia e Tarantella – Allonsanfàn
Ribellione – Baarìa
A new pause and a great applause led us to the block dedicated to the western, the block called The Modernity of the Myth in Sergio Leone’s Cinema, which started with The Man with the Harmonica, wonderfully unveiling a distant, languid and fearful sound of the harmonica that characterizes the piece, where the balance with the orchestra was perfect. Highlights in this block include also the famous main theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with that characteristic coyote howl achieved by the sound of a torn clarinet, accompanied by the trumpets and in general by the brass section bringing tension, and having a great choir adding the strength of their voices to the musical climax. Fabulous!
It is also worth mentioning in this block the participation of the soprano Susanna Rigacci in the song The Ecstasy of Gold, where her powerful voice and the wonderful piece composed by Maestro Morricone, offered us along with the orchestra and the rest of the choir, an increasing tension that ended up into a great ecstasy and a great climax, both musical and melodic. Awesome!
The truth is that the first part of the concert could have ended here and there wouldn’t be any complaints, but it still continued with a block of 8 minutes that included three songs from the 1997 TV series Nostromo, where the soprano Susanna Rigacci also had special prominence, ending with a great ovation from the public.
The intermission arrived around 10:15 p.m., to continue the concert again at 10:40 p.m. when the choir and the orchestra returned to the stage with applause from the audience. Then, maestro Ennio Morricone appeared, who, as usual, looked at the audience without saying a word, and after bowing in a gesture to say ‘thank you’, went back to the pulpit and raised the baton to start the second half.
The first two themes were from the movie The Hateful Eight, the soundtrack that gave him his first and currently only Oscar in 2016, after five previous nominations. The theme Stage Coach to Red Rock was fabulous, with a crescendo of tension and music, and a choir that gets into the dynamics of the piece at the end, giving way without pause to the asphyxiating theme Bestiality, which although it was used in The Hateful Eight, was originally from the soundtrack composed by Morricone for The Thing (1982). A great and very marked performance of the string section, under the watchful eye and rhythm of maestro Ennio Morricone.
To release the tension of the previous block, the sweetness and innocence of Cinema Paradiso arrived, with a smooth beginning to the piano and a wonderful central flute passage, which were superbly wrapped by the warmth of the strings section.
When we were into the first 20 minutes of the concert, the block called Social Cinema began, which included an amalgam of varied pieces that started with the military and martial theme of The Battle of Algiers. The curious theme Sostiene Pereira was included in this block, where the guitar and the broken sound of the synthesizer complemented the orchestra, leading way to end the block with the powerful, vindicating, rhythmic and almost tribal theme Abolição, where the choir demonstrated strength and energy, as well as a great synchronization in the final part. Goosebumps for this wonderful performance, which was received with a big standing ovation from the audience, while expressions of satisfaction and joy could be seen in the people from the choir.
And when it was already 11:20 p.m. the final block of the official program arrived, the block dedicated to The Mission, with nearly 9 minutes of music of which little can be said that has not already been said. The oboe in particular and the whole orchestra in general were fabulous in the theme Gabriel’s Oboe, a piece that elevates and transports us from its beginning, making us levitate, leaving us in the soft hands of the theme Falls, which rocks and cradles us like the water of the river does with the leaves, to end with the power of the theme On Earth as it is in Heaven, where the chorus drags us in a torrent of voice and energy, which grows until the amazing finale with the orchestra.
An impressive section, beautifully performed and conducted, that doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard it, I cannot help to get thrilled all over again. And the truth is that I’m not the only one, since a stadium full of 10,000 people standing up clapping and cheering, seemed to be thinking the same thing.
It was already 11:30 p.m., more than 2 hours since the concert started (25 minutes of delay included), and when we thought that the delay was going to play against us and was going to cause the encores to be cut off, nothing further from reality, since we did not have one, or two… but three encores!!!
The first was Rabia e Tarantella, followed by a fabulous and powerful The Ecstasy of Gold with Susanna Rigacci on stage. And when we thought that two encores were enough, that the concert was over and that our applause was not going to make the maestro come back, we had a great surprise since Morricone returned to the stage, picked up the baton, and started On Earth as it is in Heaven from The Mission, so that we reached a musical heaven with this glorious ending.
It was nearly midnight, with our hearts pumping for an awesome concert, and completely grateful to maestro Ennio Morricone for giving us almost 20 minutes of encores at the end, in spite of the delays and how late it was. We left the Pala Alpitour fluently despite the crowds, using the multiple doors that were already open and ready for a quick exit.
I missed being able to listen to Deborah’s Theme in concert, one of my favorites of all times, and a theme that although it was in the previous tour, was out of the program in this occasion. I totally understand that there’s no space for everything, and that the program was indeed very complete, but I hope that in future concerts this can be addressed and Deborah’s Theme can be added.
Ennio Morricone is a living legend of film music. With his 89 years and going for 90 in November, he is still active and touring Europe, gifting us with his presence and his music live wherever he goes.
Every opportunity we have to enjoy Ennio Morricone conduct an orchestra live is a gift, and even more if it’s an opportunity as excellent as the one we’ve had in Turin. An impeccable concert with great quality, both at sound level and at performance level. An orchestra and a choir committed and very precise, a soprano Susanna Rigacci who knows the repertoire by heart, and the detailed and exact instructions of the baton of maestro Ennio Morricone, who has shown us that he still has devotion, strength, and energy for a concert of almost 2 and a half hours.
A concert that in my personal list, far exceeds the one I could previously enjoy in 2016 in Antwerp, where despite the good performance, the sound engineering was not as good as it should (read article).
There are still tickets left for some of the locations of this ‘The 60 Years of Music Tour’ (list), and although it is possible that new cities will be added to the tour soon, don’t wait for it: save the dates now in your calendar. Go and see Ennio Morricone in concert in 2018. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Article by Gorka Oteiza