Danny Elfman, the Oscar-nominated composer best known for his scores for the Tim Burton films “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) and “Corpse Bride” (2005), had always distanced himself from live performances of his soundtracks. “He records it, supervises it, produces it, and then moves on to something else,” said conductor John Mauceri, a frequent Elfman collaborator, in an interview with the online site the Guardian. However, when the composer was asked about presenting a multimedia concert, with Burton’s images and Elfman’s music, he agreed, much to Mauceri’s surprise.
Elfman admits that the idea excited yet terrified him. “I had been approached about doing these concerts for 20 years, but I didn’t have time. It was too much work — I didn’t like thinking backwards,” he said. “But then I finally thought: ‘It’s now or never.’”
He took the plunge, and the result is “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton,” which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform July 14 under conductor Ted Sperling at Ravinia. Elfman has arranged selections from “Frankenweenie,” “Beetlejuice” and more to be performed by a live orchestra, paired with film clips chosen by Burton himself. After engagements in London, Los Angeles and Tokyo, the program was performed July 6-12 at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival. (In his review of the Lincoln Center opening-night show, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote: “For all the costumed spectacle and fun, this event was a substantive, rich and revealing concert.”)
For the New York, London and Los Angeles engagements, Elfman, the onetime vocalist for the pop-rock group Oingo Boingo, stepped into the spotlight to sing selections from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” including the film’s signature tune “What’s This?” He will not appear at Ravinia, however.
“I had no idea if it was going to work on any level,” Elfman said. “I thought I would have to win over the London audience, but they were great. [The show debuted in October 2013 at the Royal Albert Hall.] It is one of the most moving live experiences I’ve had.”
TOP: Danny Elfman and John Mauceri in “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton.” | Photo: Lincoln Center Festival.