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19 Jun 2022

About the Nosferatu cine-concert, with Simona Strungaru (composer) and Stefan Geiger (conductor)

In the special atmosphere of the Bánffy Castle, last night the Nosferatu Cine-concert took place, a TIFF – Goethe Institute co-production. Released just over a century ago, the film is a landmark in the history of cinema and proposes a character who later appeared in dozens, if not hundreds, of films: Dracula.

For this screening, the sound fund was facilitated by composer Simona Strungaru (permanent conductor of Bucharest Jazz Orchestra and Sonomania) and conductor Stefan Geiger (leads the Bremen Youth Orchestra), along with the artists of the Hungarian State Opera in Cluj-Napoca. We talked with them to better understand this elaborate process. It is the first collaboration between Strungaru and Geiger, who are not for the first time at TIFF. She composed the music for the Cine-concerts Haxan, 2016, and Malombra, 2021, and he conducted Metropolis in 2017. The two had only four days of rehearsal. A unique thing is related to the special tool used for this score, called Spheraton, made by sculptor Misha Diaconu.

What is the process of working to compose music for a Cine-concert?

Simona Strungaru: Watching the film until you somehow become one with the story, then transcribing the musical ideas that come to the surface, imagining the technical needs of the ensemble, the orchestra and the soloists who are going to perform the music.

Stefan Geiger: Music is one of the most important ingredients for a movie. We can try this if we imagine a movie without music. But even if we apply different music, it can be either horror or comedy. It is very important to have the right music that enhances the message. We are happy to have the world premiere of Simona’s score, who composed a brilliant music.

What is the specificity of a Cine-concert versus a classical concert?

Simona Strungaru: At a Cine-concert the image dictates the organization of time.

Stefan Geiger: It’s a difference that gives me great pleasure. At Cine-concerts, we are lucky, sometimes we feel like pop or rock stars, because the audience sometimes forgets that they are at a concert, being very absorbed in the show. And people react to the movie, to a comedy they laugh at, to some extraordinarily good sequences they applaud, and that can be very pleasant and joyful.

How hard was it to put all the elements in order and, in fact, to organize the whole cine-concert?

Simona Strungaru: In the case of the Nosferatu project, which for me is a dream come true, I had the luck and I want to thank some people who believed in me and in the opportunity to carry out this endeavor, Oana Lăpădatu from the Goethe Institute in Bucharest and Claudia Droc from TIFF. I am glad to have my opera performed for the first time. I have with me three extraordinary voices, soprano Mihaela Maxim, baritone Cătălin Petrescu and bass Justinian Zetea, who personifies the main characters. Another very important aspect and an innovation that I realize as a long-planted dream is to be able to give life to a very versatile percussion instrument that covers a very large frequency range, called Spheraton. On the occasion of this concert, I made contact with conductor Stefan Geiger, whom I have watched in the past conducting various soundtracks and which I appreciate very much. He resonated with my music, understood the musical message and its correlation with the film and I can say we make a very good team.

Stefan Geiger: I cannot answer exactly as you asked, because I did not organize the event, but I was contracted. Usually, the conductor is the boss, but when the concerts happen differently, you are the “slave” of the film, because it gives you the tempo. That's more demanding. In Nosferatu, there are some scenes that need to be synchronized very carefully, for example, when the sailor is hit with an axe, just to give an example. And this match can only be made by me, because the other artists are backwards to the screen and do not have the film and the score in front of them.

Article written by Ion Indolean