Sword-swinging pirates, supernatural curses and swooning damsels made it an extraordinary night at the symphony.
On Friday night, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) held the first of its three-show Pops series presentation of the adventure film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
An almost full house of audience members, including many children, was treated to a high-definition showing thanks to an eight-metre by 4.5-metre screen suspended above the stage. Specialty equipment brought in just for this event delivered the dialogue and special effects. And the soundtrack? It was played by the WSO, led by game-for-anything conductor Richard Lee.
The men from the Winnipeg Singers provided vocals from behind the orchestra.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and based on the popular Walt Disney theme park ride, the Curse of the Black Pearl is the first in a series of four films, with a fifth to be released in 2015. It was the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2003.
As a music reviewer, I admit I didn't know what to expect from this production. I had seen the movie years ago and liked the score composed by German composer Klaus Badelt. The theme song, He's a Pirate has become a favourite in the figure-skating circuit. But how would it translate to a concert hall environment and how would the orchestra sync its playing to the movie?
No worries, as the saying goes. Maestro Lee had everything well in hand, equipped with a laptop in front of his podium, showing the film and counting down the beats. As the film opened, the music began and we were transported to a ship on the ocean.
The sets are lush; the costumes impeccable; and as the story unfolded, it was easy to get caught up in the action. And while some dialogue was overpowered by the music, it was still exciting. Often heroic and suitably stirring, it was enriched by the rich voices of the singers.
It's hard not to root for Johnny Depp's quirky character, Captain Jack Sparrow, with his inimitable mannerisms and devil-may-care attitude. As he commandeered the ship Interceptor to help blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) rescue his secret love, the governor's daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), he proved himself to be a buccaneer par excellence. He easily tracked down the pirate ship, the Black Pearl, finding its leader, Captain Barbossa (Australian actor Geoffrey Rush) and his band of creepy men.
Music sets the scene in any movie and often acts as a harbinger of events to follow. But hearing it played live really hammered this home. The life the WSO's playing injected into the film made the characters and the action jump right off the screen. A gentle minuet accompanied Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) as he attempted to propose to Elizabeth. The low strings and brass made the storm scene even stormier. When the city was set on fire, the timpani pounded and the cymbals crashed. Everything fit perfectly.
Orchestra members deserved the loud cheers as they took their bows.
The show repeats today at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.