He may be ninety, but Ennio Morricone’s power is undiminished and he’s still filling arenas… so why is this his last London gig?
02 Arena, London
It’s quite something to fill the O2 Arena when young. To do so just a couple of weeks after your 90th birthday is truly amazing.
Ennio Morricone, with his 120-piece Czech orchestra and 100-strong Crouch End Chorus, was across everything throughout, his beat small but precise.
Ennio Morricone (above) turned 90 just a couple of weeks ago but still managed to fill out the 02 Arena in his impressive final London performance
Pianissimos made their effect in stuff like The Mission. Massive climaxes, such as in the Tarantella from Allonsanfàn, or the Abolição from Queimada, were enough to lift the roof off.
A suite from Sergio Leone’s ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ that made Morricone’s reputation showed why these scores created such an impact in the Seventies. The virile tunes still stand out, like the memorable one from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The extraordinary orchestral effects, such as the amplified harmonica in Once Upon A Time In The West, testify to a composer with remarkable gifts as an orchestrator. And he does them all himself – perhaps 500 film scores in his career. Simply staggering.
Who but Morricone would have thought to employ in the ‘Last Stagecoach To Red Rock’ sequence from his Oscar-winning The Hateful Eight (2016) a complex bassoon duet, with a contrabassoon buzzing away in the background? An impressive sound, beyond anything his fellow film composers could achieve.
Clint Eastwood (above) starred in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Morricone’s two-note main theme that runs throughout the film was meant to sound like a coyote’s howl
Much of what makes Morricone a great film composer was included in the two dozen film scores featured here. Sadly, there was only Deborah’s Theme from another Sergio Leone masterpiece, Once Upon A Time In America. More from that ravishing score would have been welcome, because it should have won him an Oscar 30 years before The Hateful Eight, but didn’t for the most ridiculous of reasons. The producers forgot to enter it!
Morricone says this is his last London gig. But why, Maestro, when your powers are undiminished, and your audience still so keen? My friend Keith Breewood has been to 26 Morricone arena concerts. He wants more. So do I.
Callas In Concert: The Hologram Tour
For me, a hologram virgin, this was a surprisingly compelling evening. Maria Callas was the outstanding singing actress of modern times. It’s one of my great regrets that I never heard her sing live.
Here she appears as an apparition in ghostly white. She sings, head bowed with rapt concentration, and graceful full-arm gestures, like a prima ballerina. All her movements are contained, even when singing with full dramatic clarity, as in Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene.
Was Callas really like this? Obviously I can’t say, but they have certainly created an extremely charismatic ghost, far more interesting to watch than any modern recitalist.
Not all the recordings are as well chosen as they might be; far too many come from late on, when her voice had frayed.
When they do let her loose on some of her earlier recordings – like the one from Catalani’s La Wally, from 1954 – the vocal power is overwhelming, and the auditorium really came alive.
It’s a tribute to the skill of the creators that the illusion is so convincing. Catch this show on tour if you can. My appreciation of Callas was undeniably enhanced by the experience.