Note: This story originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Boca Raton.
It took six years for Festival of the Arts Boca to name its first music director, but the selection is no stranger to fans of the event.
Constantine Kitsopoulos, music director for Queens Symphony Orchestra for six years, has conducted for operas, symphonies and plays in such venues as Broadway, Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall. He joined the Festival of the Arts family in 2010 when he conducted the Russian National Orchestra and, for festival chairman Charlie Siemon, his return in 2011 cemented his appointment.
“He did unbelievable work with young Jackie Evancho at last year’s festival,” Siemon says. “He worked with her in a way that was just magical.”
As music director, Kitsopoulos will introduce certain pieces of music and lecture on particular subjects, enhancing the festival’s educational component. He will conduct two performances, both of them flashing back on film history. On Friday, he will follow up last year’s successful live orchestration of “The Wizard of Oz” by offering the same treatment for “Casablanca.” On Saturday, he will conduct the Boca Raton Symphonia with three young stars of the Metropolitan Opera in a program titled “Opera Goes to the Movies.” (Both programs will take place at Mizner Park Amphitheater.)
Kitsopoulos spoke to Boca Raton about the particulars of live film-score re-creation.
Is your approach different when conducting an abstract piece of music compared to something with a story?
I try to approach it from the point of view of the music itself, and to me any piece of music is always telling some kind of story. In the case of a Beethoven symphony, I study the art and the literature and the society of the time in which it was written and what the composer was going through in his or her life, so there’s always some kind of a back story.
What was your reaction this year to the “Casablanca” announcement?
That’s one of my favorite films, and it has a score by Max Steiner, who actually studied with Gustav Mahler. A lot of these film composers of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s came over from Europe and studied with some of the great composers. It’s a wonderful score.
When you’re performing for these movies, do you want the symphony to be so integrated into the film experience that audiences almost don’t notice it?
There’s always a balance you have to strike. Film music is meant to accompany a film. It’s not there to stand out by itself. But in a live concert situation, you have to have some sort of balance so that, yes, we’re accompanying the film, but since it’s such a unique situation, the audience can sit up and listen sometimes and notice what we’re doing.
With the audience laughing, applauding and reciting dialogue from the movie, are you able to play off their energy in ways you wouldn’t at a traditional concert?
In an ideal situation you always play off the energy coming from the audience. When everything is right—when the music is coming out beautifully, and you can feel the audience engaged in what’s going on—it’s like riding a wave, to use surfing terminology. It’s like being on this wave and letting it take you where it takes you.
Do you have any movie requests going into 2013?
“North by Northwest.” I’ve done “Psycho” and a program with excerpts from four or five different Hitchcock films, and “North by Northwest” has a great score.