Conductor: Jessica Cottis
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Well done to Leeds City Council for organising their Summer Series: a programme of live events and film screenings held in the beautiful open air surroundings of Millennium Square. This summer-long programme kicked off with a weekend of Opera North in the City which itself climaxed on Sunday with the Orchestra of Opera North providing a live performance of the entire score of Back to the Future while the film played on a giant screen.
It barely needs pointing out that the film itself is a solid five star classic in its own right. The 1985 action/comedy/sci-fi/defies-categorizing movie starring Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd charts the misadventures of Marty McFly who finds himself time travelling back to 1955 and desperately trying to make his future parents fall in love before he ceases to exist. It’s funny, exciting, emotional and as perfect as a film could possibly be. Seeing this film as part of such a big crowd also offered additional rewards. The audience laughed in all the right places and George got an enormous cheer for finally standing up to Biff and saving Lorraine from his clutches.
After an overture of the main theme, the impressive 62 piece orchestra under the skilful baton of conductor Jessica Cottis began Alan Silvestri’s iconic score in perfect synchronisation with the film. Clearly, the movie had been edited to remove the music so as not to interfere with the live performance, and it worked perfectly. This orchestra handled the entire score perfectly, from the bombastic main theme, through the romantic swells as Lorraine falls for George, and even including the raucous Western theme from Back to the Future III (used as an entr’acte). It should be noted that the orchestra only played Silvestri’s orchestral score: Huey Lewis and the News’s The Power of Love was left intact, as were all of the songs performed by Marvin Berry and the Starlighters including Marty’s memorable rendition of Johnny B Goode.
The LED screen allowed the film’s picture to be very clear even on an early summer’s evening, and apart from an unfortunately glitchy start to the second half (which was very quickly fixed) the sound was expertly handled. Operationally the event was very well run: seating was allocated and although the seat numbers were not immediately apparent, the numerous stewards were attentive and fast to make everyone comfortable. Litter was collected during the interval and despite the event being almost sold out it never seemed crowded, with plenty of space surrounding the seating.
Although the orchestra was undoubtedly excellent, the film is so good that it was too easy to become engrossed in it and forget that they were there. This could have perhaps been improved upon if the screen has been positioned behind the orchestra instead of suspended from the stage’s proscenium arch. This, however, is nit-picking as this event was a true treat for movie and music lovers alike. One hopes that its success prompts Opera North to organise a similar event next year. Back to the Future II, perhaps?
Reviewed on 30 July 2017 | Image: Sarah Zagni