James Conlon


A t 14, the future music director of the L.A. Opera sat awestruck as he watched Albert Finney and Joyce Redman go at it with everything from peaches to clams on the half-shell in Tony Richardson’s “Tom Jones.”

“I guess it pushed the envelope,” he says of the famously sexy eating scene. “But then I hadn’t pushed the envelope yet!”

It’s perfectly logical that a conductor of classical opera would call the 1963 pic a most influential film. “I love Mozart more than anything,” James Conlon begins. “And there’s something in the film’s courtly manners and intrigues and these costumed people throwing themselves out of windows and hiding in closets that reverberated for me. The harpsichord theme that runs through the film is delightful and like a classical opera, which is constructed with a dramatic situation, and then there’s a moment of reflection in a duet or an aria. It is the novel put onscreen, and I can’t think of a single superfluous scene in it.”

Conlon also has a very personal connection to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.”

“I went to high school in the Bronx; I knew that neighborhood where Michael Corleone shoots the police officer,” he notes. ” ‘The Godfather’ is my feeling of roots in New York City.”

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