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No time goes by for 'Casablanca'
Who: The Colorado Springs Philharmonic, conducted by Thomas Wilson
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Where: The Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $19-$59; 520-7469, worldarena.com.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, Ilsa walked into Rick’s, and Americans’ ideals about romance haven’t been the same since.
Even as time goes by (71 years, to be exact), “Casablanca” remains the quintessential American love epic. A heartbroken saloon keeper and the gorgeous angel, who did the breaking, tangle in a dangerous realm, where Nazis and resistance fighters wrestle overwith visas and curfews over glasses of bourbon.
The Colorado Springs Philharmonic will breathes life into Michael Curtiz’s 1942 classic when it presents the film Saturday at the Pikes Peak Center with full orchestral accompaniment.
Philhamonic president and CEO Nathan Newbrough sees it as perfect post-Valentine day fodder.
“What a terrific opportunity to experience a great film many people haven’t seen in years, and watch it like it just came out,” he said.
In fact, those who’ve seen a digitally restored version didn’t actually hear the film as it was meant to be heard.
“Even if they’ve cleaned up the video, there’s often still a lot of audio that’s been lost. You don’t get the full breadth of the score,” said Thomas Wilson, who’ll conduct the orchestra in the pit during the screening.
To make this happen, Wilson had to get the original score, specially notated with time cues, so he can watch the clock and make sure his music stays in sync with the action. The film itself has had the music almost entirely digitally removed.
Max Steiner’s moving score played a fundamental role in “Casablanca,” — fromincluding the iconic over-the-top romance of “As Time Goes By,” the tune that makes Rick feel like he’s had his insides kicked out, and the dueling national anthems that prompt Rick’s patrons to stand up, if only briefly, to the Nazis.
But to Wilson, some of the real brilliance of the score lies beyond the classic songs.
“I’m really liking the transitions,” he says. “They’re actually ingenious.”
He’s fascinated by the way Steiner subtly danced from the little on-screen jazz band at Rick’s, brought in a French horn or a cello, and built it to a full orchestral swell.
The philharmonic has performed several of these live film-accompaniment concerts and has more planned, including “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” part of the 2013-14 season’s pops lineup.
“Pops programming is some of the hardest we do,” Newbrough says. “With the Masterworks season, we understand that audience. We know the music. That’s why we exist. But the pops audience is so diverse and there are so many things out there. You want to strike the right chords to attract different audiences.”
Wilson believes “Casablanca” certainly makes sense as part of that strategy.
“It transcend generations,” he says. “I don’t think ‘Casablanca’ is just a product of its time. I think it also works well in our time.”
If this pairing of orchestra and film continues to prove successful, it may be the start of a beautiful friendship.