November 27, 2018
With a CV that includes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, Cinema Paradiso and The Hateful Eight, for which he won an Oscar, it’s fair to assume that you are at least familiar with some of the maestro’s work. When he announced his final ever UK date, we felt we had to be there to see the great man one last time.
It’s quite a spectacular sight seeing the O2 arena’s stage absolutely packed with musicians. With the 90-year-old composer conducting, the audience is in safe hands with the Czech Symphony Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus lending a hand for the vocalisations, many of which appear during a four song flourish that encompasses Morricone’s work with the late great Sergio Leone. A soprano and female solo vocalist also appear at different times during the evening, which lasts a spellbinding three hours including interval and still leaves the audience wishing for more.
Morricone arrives on stage to a thunderous standing ovation, the first of many throughout the evening, before the first composition – The Legend of 1900 – begins with a few solitary plucks of the harp. Before long the entire orchestra is involved in this beautiful song and it truly sets the tone for what will be a remarkable evening. With an oeuvre as impressive as Morricone’s he can’t play all of his excellent creations, there is no room for the theme to Once Upon a Time in the West or his work on Days of Heaven for instance, but what the audience is treated to are his classics as well as slightly lesser known works including Abolisson from Burn! and his work on Sostiene Pereira, an Italian drama from 1995.
The music is never anything short of remarkable but it’s clear where the crowd are most enthused and it’s with his more well-known pieces. The entire Sergio Leone section goes down wonderfully with the crowd as he conducts Man with a Harmonica followed by three tracks from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in a row, whilst L'ultima diligenza di Red Rock from The Hateful Eight also receives a rousing reception. As the soloist for Gabriel’s Oboe (from The Mission) plays its doubtful there’s a dry eye left in the room.
A few leave at what they presume to be the end but Morricone returns to the stage to play both the main and love themes from Cinema Paradiso, and then returns for two more encores to reprise The Ecstacy of Gold and Abolisson to huge applause. All told, it’s 11pm by the time the crowd disperses - a 90 year old has managed to fill the O2 - and everyone has been treated to something they will undoubtedly never forget. Amassing no less than five or six standing ovations throughout the evening, although Ennio Morricone will never again bring his music to the stage in the UK, we highly recommend a trip to Dublin for his final concert there in February.
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By Henry Fosdike