One could choose from several vantage points — all of them valid — in commenting on Saturday night’s live Omaha Symphony soundtrack performance underneath the 2009 “reboot” film of “Star Trek.”
The simplest, most relevant point of view, of course, belonged to the audience — and the explosion of cheers audible from just outside the Holland Performing Arts Center’s Kiewit Concert Hall said all that really matters about the evening’s success.
To be honest, the killer combination of Omaha’s orchestra, its superior performing venue and the venerable “Star Trek” TV and movie universe added up in advance to a can’t-miss entry on the symphony’s 2015-16 Movie Music schedule.
What, then, does a reviewer have left to write about? A series of observations from those different vantage points, starting with the view seen and heard by Resident Conductor Ernest Richardson.
Performances like these give audiences a sense, albeit an imperfect one, of the process of recording an actual movie score. The conductor must cue the orchestra to enter and exit precisely to keep the music synchronized with the visual presentation. But the ensemble — like Broadway orchestras but unlike their Hollywood counterparts — doesn’t get a second chance if it blows the cues.
Careful observers on Saturday night may have noticed the video monitor at Richardson’s podium that helped him keep the orchestra “in sync.” The audio balance between the live music and the recorded dialogue and effects may have differed at various points in the concert hall. But the calibration among all those elements seemed impeccable indeed.
It might seem like a mere ticket-selling gimmick for a symphony to play a live music score underneath the original film. But in the Holland, at least, one could hear more subtle textures and distinctions among instruments — violins, harp and piano, for example — during intimate moments in the script. Those distinctions tend to disappear in even the best digitally recorded soundtrack.
One might also discuss the particular “Star Trek” film chosen for Saturday’s performance. Of the 10 full-length movies prior to the 2009 reboot, the most iconic score arguably belongs to 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” — the one that resurrected the late Ricardo Montalban’s guest character in the original 1960s series and featured Spock (Leonard Nimoy) sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise.
By contrast, the 2009 “Star Trek” simply hasn’t been around long enough for its music to sink deeply into Trekkers’ hearts — though Michael Giacchino, who composed the scores for this film and 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” has also written the music for such recent hits as “Up,” “Inside Out” and “Jurassic World.”
A well-done movie score, though, focuses first on illustrating the action and emotions on the screen. Giacchino skillfully builds up the tension of the Enterprise’s showdown with the villain Nero (Eric Bana), captures the devil-may-care attitude of Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and penetrates viewers’ souls as it musically illustrates the unexpected destruction of Vulcan, Spock’s home planet.
And even though the 2009 “Star Trek” lacked the sweeping nautical themes of “Wrath of Khan,” it offered one notable piece of music that all 10 previous movies had lacked. The closing credits featured the entirety of Alexander Courage’s way-out, futuristic theme music that played over both the opening and closing credits of what Trekkers simply call “The Original Series.”
It isn’t strictly necessary to hear a live orchestra play a movie score with the original film. But as Saturday night’s performance and the entire Movie Music series show, there are unique musical experiences to be had when it does.