Lingua Franca

Bowl conductor finds commonalities in Latin, Euro, Hollwood traditions

For a little more than 40 minutes this month, John Mauceri will present a Brazilian travelogue in music with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, connecting the arrival of the Portuguese to Carmen Miranda, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Hollywood with music popular and neglected.

It’s a typical Mauceri program — a premiere (a Jobim suite), a rediscovered work (Villa-Lobos’ “Magdalena”) and familiar songs from a star (Sergio Mendes). If all goes well, the audience will walk away with new-found knowledge of Brazilian music’s origins and its assimilation into American film and stage music. Yet the creative process, as it is in so many of Mauceri’s programs, will be about as invisible as seams on a fine dress — the focus is squarely on the presentation and the music’s potential relationship with the audience.

“Most importantly, we have to have fun presenting it,” Mauceri says. “But (these programs) also have to do with cultural and civic pride. We’re not always told L.A. is a great city. L.A. profoundly understates its gift to the 20th century and to the world — through film and L.A.’s legacy, the world knows what happens here.”

But consider the preparation: The conductor spent a month learning the music of Brazil’s most famous orchestral composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, before turning his attention to the pre-Portuguese native culture’s music. Flush with Villa-Lobos and a suite of Jobim music written by an arranger who had orchestrated for the composer of “Girl From Ipanema,” Mauceri saw the need for music repping the more upbeat side of Brazil and started the hunt for songs from Carmen Miranda pics, finding the arrangements in storage in the RKO archive at UCLA.

Once again, Mauceri will celebrate music associated with film and introduce audiences to orchestral music that otherwise might not be a powerful draw on its own.

“We are out to show the world, and especially the public in Los Angeles, its own cultural heritage,” says Mauceri.

Film and Broadway are heavily represented in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s summer schedule of 11 programs (25 concerts): the premiere of film orchestrations from “Oklahoma!”; an evening of contemporary musical theater works (“Titanic,” “Rent” and “Ragtime” are included); and a salute to the music of films from 20th Century Fox.

Since the inception of the Bowl Orchestra seven years ago, Mauceri, 52, and his band have fit expertly into L.A.’s cultural fabric and classical music’s orchestral world, regulalry adding more than just a touch of Hollywood.

“In early sound films, (composers) Bernard Herrmann, Alex North and Alfred Newman really thought of their scores as going through the silences, the same as anyone who wrote in the 19th century when plays were staged with orchestras. You could say film music predated film.

“But it hasn’t been customary to put North’s ‘Cleopatra’ on par with Mendelssohn. And there has been a discounting of the work done in America by European composers — Kurt Weill, Erich Wolfgang Korngold — that deserves to be heard. We need to establish that America is culturally diverse and that its music is not just about cowboys and New York City.”

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