Chaplin's City Lights with The Cleveland Orchestra
By Mike Telin
Anyone who was not at Severance Hall on Saturday March 31st for the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, with the musical score performed by The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of William Eddins, really missed out on a thoroughly entertaining evening of moviegoing and music-making. But wait — if you weren’t there you couldn’t have gotten in anyway since the performance was sold out!
When Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights premiered in 1931, the film was an immediate box office hit. Today City Lights is considered by many to be “the perfect marriage of music and film, filled with comedy, romance, and heartache.” I am completely unqualified to comment on film of any kind: until Saturday I had never seen a Chaplin film, and my annual moviegoing experience amounts to one every twelve to fifteen months. But City Lights is hysterically funny, as well as a touching love story — without ever becoming overly sentimental.
But of course silent film would a difficult art form to embrace if it weren’t for the accompanying musical score, and it is the outstanding performance of Chaplin’s score that made the evening. Conductor William Eddins, who was making his debut with The Cleveland Orchestra was in full command and perfectly coordinated the performance on the stage with the performance on the screen. Chaplin’s music is very sophisticated, and as one might expect is a little bit symphonic, and a little bit of jazz of many varieties. It also utilizes the leitmotiv — for example, the Flower Girl’s theme, which was composed by Jose Padilla. There were many fine solos performed: clarinetist Robert Woolfrey slid through passages with panache, Michael Miller's trumpet solos were sassy, and concertmaster Peter Otto performed with passion and grace.
What a fun eighty-eight minutes! And most importantly, the audience were clearly enjoying themselves. Perhaps City Lights will make an appearance again next season. Who knows? Perhaps, like many films, it will develop a cult following here in Cleveland.
This article has been revised to correctly identify the trumpet soloist.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com April 2, 2012
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