TSO's 'Wizard' has perfect pitch
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Monday, December 03, 2012
12/03/12 at 5:49 AM
Conductor Ron Spigelman announced at the start of Saturday night's performance by the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra that the audience was going to experience the film "The Wizard of Oz" in 3-D.
"To me," Spigelman said, "the third dimension of any film, the thing that gives the depth to every movie, is its music, its score."
And every element that went into having a live orchestra accompany the showing of a film was in perfectly balanced working order. Saturday evening easily lived up to Spigelman's billing. The added sonic dimension of a full orchestra made some of the most famous songs in the history of the movies - "Over the Rainbow," "We're Off to See the Wizard," "If I Only Had a Brain" - sound fresher, almost new.
But not everything was quite so in balance Saturday in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall, so that too often it was closer to watching a movie in something more like 2.5-D.
This is the third time in its history the Tulsa Symphony has done one of these movies-with-live-music events, following an evening of Warner Bros. cartoons that featured classical music that was part of its first season, and last season's showing of "The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
With both those events, bombast was the order of the evening, whether comically sending up opera with vocals by Elmer Fudd or buckling all sorts of swash by Johnny Depp and company.
"The Wizard of Oz," however, requires more of a delicate approach. And for the most part, Spigelman and the Tulsa Symphony achieved that, melding its sound with the images so precisely, so sensitively, so seamlessly, that one almost forgot that what was being heard wasn't the original soundtrack.
The songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg were treated with special care - "Over the Rainbow" was about as perfect a moment as one could want. Yet on occasion, Spigelman and the orchestra's enthusiasm overwhelmed the dialogue being spoken.
Of course, this is a concert, where music traditionally is given pride of place. And the film itself is so well-known that I'm sure most of the audience - which ranged from the very young to the very old, with apparently only one overly vocal malcontent in the bunch (I know, because he sat behind me) - knew every word of the dialogue by heart.
Still, even when the orchestra's playing was appropriately subdued, the PAC's sound system muddied much of the movie's sound, especially of actors with higher-pitched voices. Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch was often unintelligible, as were most of the Munchkins.
So maybe the Tulsa Symphony's performance of "The Wizard of Oz" wasn't quite the perfect "3-D" experience Spigelman promised.
Still, all the visual magic (that sepia-toned opening with skies out of a Thomas Hart Benton painting, the candy-hued Technicolor of the Land of Oz, even Judy Garland's ever-changing hairdo) and moral uplift of L. Frank Baum's all-American fairy tale was there to be enjoyed by - to quote the epigram at the movie's beginning - "the Young at Heart," set against a sonic background of live music that no theatre sound system could ever hope to match.
Original Print Headline: TSO's 'Wizard' was nearly perfect
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478