In the age of silent movies, the movies were not really so silent. There was music accompanying the dialogue so helpfully printed across the screen, and those notes were vital to conveying the film’s story to those in the theater.
Charlie Chaplin understood this and used orchestral scores to great effect throughout his career. The music, in its entirety from one of his classics, “City Lights,” is being performed Saturday night by the Las Vegas Philharmonic at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ Reynolds Hall.
This performance is a genuine multimedia effort, as the film will be played on Reynolds Hall video screens to the symphony’s performance.
Taras Krysa will conduct, making his debut with the L.V. Phil, and the performance opens the orchestra’s Pops Series concerts for the 2012-2013 season. The show is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., doors at 6:30, and tickets are $24 to $95 (click on the Smith Center website for more info).
The performance also is an audition of sorts for Krysa, who is in the lineup of guest conductors during a transition period for the Philharmonic as the symphony seeks a replacement for outgoing music director David Itkin, who was bought out of the final year of his contract in August after notifying Philharmonic officials that he would not seek a contract renewal in June.
“I have expressed interest in the position,” says Krysa, who also has conducted the “City Lights” multimedia presentation with the Henderson Symphony at Henderson Pavilion. “My understanding is anyone they bring in this year (as a guest conductor) is a potential candidate.”
Krysa is an ideal choice for this particular performance having already conducted a similar show and also because of his deep affection for Chaplin, who wrote, directed and starred in the 1931 classic. The American Film Institute’s most recent rankings of all-time great films had it at No. 11 in its list of the 100 greatest American movies.
“I love Chaplin,” Krysa said in a phone interview this week. “Obviously, he is one of the most brilliant talents ever on so many levels. This is a great opportunity to reintroduce him to the big screen and involve the symphony. It was a very simple process to put this together.”
The music for the film was reportedly composed in six weeks in a collaboration of Chaplin and Arthur Johnson. Chaplin once said, “I really didn't write it down. I la-laed and Arthur Johnson wrote it down, and I wish you would give him credit because he did a very good job. It is all simple music, you know, in keeping with my (Little Tramp) character.”
Krysa remembers being a teenager when he first saw the film.
“I liked it for several reasons, and when you come back to it as an adult, you have a different perspective,” he said. “It is so brilliant. There is not one extra, unnecessary frame, which is the case with all great movies. Chaplin was a diligent workaholic for almost a year, shooting that movie. He had artistic freedom and was relentless.”
“Silent” is not the apt description of Chaplin’s art or of Saturday’s performance. It should make some beautiful noise.