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EXCLUSIVE: Elliot Goldenthal on 'Othello' at American Ballet Theatre, Julie Taymor's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' Film, Wojciech Kilar Prize...and Tom Brady to Berlin Phil?

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Jun 12, 2015 04:23 AM EDT

No doubt, you've heard Elliot Goldenthal before. Be it early efforts scoring Gus Van Sant's Cocaine Cowboys, mid-career cues care of Joel Schumacher's Batman reboot or his exquisite contributions to the five feature films of his partner Julie Taymor, yes, Goldenthal's music is heard most often on the big screen. Having studied under American compositional royalty like Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, though, Goldenthal is hardly some Hollywood hack.

Case in point: His beguiling Symphony in G# Minor, dexterously rendered by Carl St. Clair's Pacific Symphony, garnered him the coveted “Best New Symphony" gong in the Orange County Register's annual Max Reger Awards.

"Taut, cogent and edgy," indeed, Mr. Mangan.

(Photo : Zarathustra Music)
Symphony in G# Minor is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Closer to home, audiences here in Gotham heard just how calculated Goldenthal's sound world can be with the revival of Othello by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera. First produced back in 1997, Othello was a joint commission then by ABT and the San Francisco Ballet.

In 2009, Joffrey took it to Chicago.

(Photo : Gene Schiavone)
Marcelo Gomes stars as the moor of Venice in ABT's 2015 revival of Othello: A Dance in Three Acts.

And on Tuesday, May 19, I attended opening night of Othello at Lincoln Center, which highlighted the people's prima, Misty Copeland.

That none too atonal saxophone sounding from the pit has stuck with me since.

(Photo : Gene Schiavone)
Gomes and Julie Kent dance the pas de deux.

Recipient of the inaugural Wojciech Kilar Prize, I spoke to Mr. Goldenthal on the phone about winning awards, scoring Shakespeare on stage versus the screen and "deflating" all the rumors around who's on first at the Berliner Philharmoniker.

CLASSICALITE: So, about that Academy Award for Frida. You'd been nominated before--same with the Pulitzer for your opera, Grendel.

ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL: Well, I was nominated four times. So, when I finally received an Oscar, it was a great thrill. But after that, you just think about what's important to you.

C-LITE: Like, say, your revived score to Lar Lubovitch’s choreography in Shakespeare's Othello, which just finished up for ABT's 75th anniversary at the Met? Were you pleased? I certainly was, and I most definitely would be.

EG: All the performances had gone smoothly, and that's a big thing. For 2,000 people to experience it, they should get a rendition of it that's perfect. One act after another, it establishes itself as a corps de ballet, then it draws in the story of Othello. And by the last act, it's really strong. I am still excited about it. I think it's the most played contemporary ballet in history, and it's very exciting to be a part of that kind of thing. It gets better and better. They've been playing Othello since the mid-'90s to big houses worldwide, and it's not slowing down. I'm very pleased. Even if I were dead, I'd be pleased.

C-LITE: Staying with Shakes, you've got another big bard production coming soon. This time, though, it's music for film. Having worked extensively with Julie Taymor on both Shakespeare plays and movies--including Midsummer Night for the christening of Theater for a New Audience in your native Brooklyn--it's safe to say you're a fan, no?

EG: Yeah, I'm doing A Midsummer Night's Dream--the movie. And, yes, that comes out in select cinemas June 22. I am a Shakespeare fan. Everyone's a Shakespeare fan, in one way or another. But I enjoy working on these projects because they're so complex and unexpected in terms of character development.

C-LITE: And will there be a physical release of that score?

EG: Look out for the album, A Midsummer Night's Dream, around the release of the film in mid-June.

C-LITE: Shakespeare, the original auteur. Speaking of, you're recently back from Poland, with yet another accolade for your film work.

EG: I had a big concert in Kraków, where they're doing four of my Shakespeare scores with the Philharmonic there. They're opening to a 3,000-seat house doing excerpts from Othello, Titus, A Midsummer Night's Dream and, also, a symphonic setting of three Shakespeare songs with amplified guitars and a full orchestra. It's really cool. That week, I received a big prize from Poland--the first-ever Kilar Prize, which is based on the composer Wojciech Kilar, who contributed to over 128 movies (like Coppola's Dracula, for example). He was a very influential composer, very avant-garde in Poland. He died a few years ago. Now, they've set up a prize for preserving his tradition in both the classical and film arenas. I'm the first recipient, so it was a very important evening.

C-LITE: OK, final question. Given all the speculation, and having been relatively close there in Poland, who do you think is going to head the Berlin Philharmonic?

EG: I haven't really been following it. I just know they're doing the same thing in New York City. But, if I were to guess...Tom Brady?

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, Classicalite Q&A, Elliot Goldenthal, Othello, American Ballet Theatre, Julie Taymor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Wojciech Kilar, Tom Brady