By Michael Shapiro
I was commissioned in 2001 by The Chappaqua Orchestra’s Boris Koutzen Memorial Fund to write the movie score for the classic film Frankenstein (1931) directed by James Whale and starring Colin Clive and Boris Karloff. The world premiere of the work with live orchestra and film, licensed by Universal, occurred in October 2002 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Jacob Burns Film Center in New York and since its premiere has received over 50 productions to date worldwide in one of its five versions (chamber orchestra, full orchestra, wind ensemble, choral, and operatic). Frankenstein-The Movie Score opened the first day of the 2018 Festspillene i Bergen (Bergen, Norway International Festival),
and its overture was recorded by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the U.K.
Other notable performances have included its Russian premiere by the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic under Jeffery Meyer, the first performance of the band version by the Dallas Winds at the Meyersohn Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas (and later at the Moody Performance Hall under Jerry Junkin’s direction), full orchestral premiere by the Virginia Symphony (and later by the Charleston Symphony), dozens of university wind ensemble and orchestral performances throughout the US and Canada, and productions by armed services organizations such as the United States Navy Band led by Captain Ken Collins at the American Film Institute Theater and the Royal Canadian Air Force Band, Captain Matthew Clark conducting in Winnipeg. The operatic version for five singers and theater orchestra features the Latin Requiem Mass as its libretto to be premiered when the lights come on again.
Unlike The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), with its lush score by Franz Waxman, the original Frankenstein was produced without a movie score. Many critics, such as Leonard Maltin, have remarked that Frankenstein is badly in need of music. Mr. Shapiro’s 70-minute score is written to be played under the dialogue of the film. For modern day moviegoers, Mr. Shapiro’s haunting music adds significantly to the emotional impact of the film.
A special edition of Michael Shapiro’s Interplay, Conversations in Music features a monstrous mystery guest and brings us up to date about where Frankenstein-The Movie Score has been, where it is today, and where it is going, alive and dead.