Few creative partnerships in cinema have been as long-lasting or fruitful as the 20+ year collaboration between filmmaker auteur Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman. Haunting, eerie, at times chaotic and bizarre, ominous, melancholy, yet often soothing and serene: These words can be used to describe both the stark visual content of Burton's films as well as the dark drama of Elfman's music. Both artists have exquisitely distinctive styles that seamlessly breathe life into each other and -- luckily and miraculously -- are ultimately one in the same.
Last night, the Ravinia pavilion and lawn in Highland Park were flooded with the sounds and creations of these two artists by virtue of the talents of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lakeside Singers. A screen flashed clips from Burton's films ranging from 1988's Beetlejuice
to 2012's Dark Shadows
with a whole slew of others in between. Also shown were dozens of Burton's drawings
of various characters, often followed by the live action scenes of those very characters, showing how vibrantly his original twisted creative vision is portrayed in the final polished work.
And of course, there was the cinematic, stunning music. The program consisted of thirteen suites (an intentional and apropos number) from Elfman's vast catalogue of musical scores. With the powerful music booming through the pavilion, even without the aid of the screen I could see the horrific clown dream sequence from Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the Penguin rising from the dank sewers into a foggy Gotham, the colorful confections of Willie Wonka's factory, the deranged headless horseman in pursuit of a petrified Ichabod Crane, the impossibly skinny form of Jack Skellington sprinting excitedly through the bright cheerful lights of Christmastown, and, in my favorite of the Burton + Elfman + Depp collaborations, I could practically feel the snowy chill in the air during the ice dance sequence from Edward Scissorhands.
All the suites were performed beautifully by the always flawless CSO, conducted by Ted Sperling, with the Lakeside Singers choir complementing the orchestra with background vocals and unearthly soprano "oooh"s. Gorgeous, intricate piano was in the spotlight for "Victor's Piano Solo" from Corpse Bride
, frenzied violin for the hair-cutting sequence from Edward Scissorhands
, and, by far the most non-traditional instrument of the night, the theremin
(an electronic musical instrument played by manipulating the frequencies with one's hand -- without physically touching it at all) created a high-pitched tone so weird and uncanny you almost expected to see UFO saucers descending from the night sky.Yes, the CSO pulled out all the stops, neglecting not even Mars Attacks!
, decidedly the most obscure of Burton-Elfman creations.
Too sadly, this was a one-night performance, though it could surely draw in crowds for months and even years if an extended run was possible. While you cannot see the show in person anymore, I wish every Burton fan the same experience as I had.
compiled a playlist of some of the songs from the concert. Listen and enjoy while scrolling through Burton's artwork
for an immersive Burton-Elfman experience. I'm sure you will agree with the sentiment from Johnny Depp's program note that "Tim and Danny are a match made in the stars."
For more information on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, look at their event page
or visit the box office at 220 S Michigan Ave.