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WASHINGTON — “Harry Potter” just celebrated its 20th anniversary on bookshelves.
This weekend, Wolf Trap will screen “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001) with live accompaniment by the National Symphony Orchestra on Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
“Watching the film, I have to remind myself that I’m working and I’m not there to be entertained, but it’s so hard not to get drawn into the emotion,” NSO conductor Emil de Cou told WTOP. “That’s what really grabs you, not just the lines and the storytelling, it’s the music. At the end of ‘Harry Potter,’ you are so moved and you could break down in tears.”
While J.K. Rowling provides the wondrous story, John Williams conducts the magical score.
“It’s a huge soundtrack,” de Cou said. “He writes his movies, especially this movie, like a Wagner opera. I’m carrying this music around and it’s so heavy! I had to mail half of the music here in advance because it’s just so heavy. Just one half of ‘Harry Potter’ is longer than all of ‘La La Land’ put together, because there’s almost nothing that isn’t underscored.”
Williams is so detailed that he constructs pieces of music for each beloved character.
“He writes a leitmotif for each character,” de Cou said. “Since it’s the first movie, he’s introducing the characters on screen, but also the music and what’s linked to each character.”
When Harry hits the screen, what can you expect to hear?
“Harry’s theme is in three-four [time] and it sounds a little like a hymn or simple church music,” de Cou said. “Then the opening theme you hear on the celeste, which is that little tinkly keyboard, is a magical Hedwig theme on the celeste, which is sort of the sound of the Sugar Plum Fairy in ‘The Nutcracker.’ Very high, very ethereal and very magical.”
One of his favorite moments comes at the end of the movie.
“Dumbledore comes to him when he’s in the hospital,” de Cou said. “He’s talking about why he was protected. It’s not because of a spell or a curse or anything, it’s the love of his mother that saved him. Then you hear this incredibly tender theme, just like the end of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when Dorothy says, ‘There’s no place like home,’ and you hear ‘Over the Rainbow.’”
De Cou will also host a pre-performance discussion Friday on the Old Farmhouse Lawn starting an hour before showtime and ending with plenty of time to reach your seat before the show.
Click here for event information. Listen to our full chat with NSO conductor Emil de Cou below:
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