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ROMEO AND JULIET – Nino Rota

February 15, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Franco Zeffirelli’s first film was The Taming of the Shrew in 1967, which was adapted from the original Shakespearean play. It was a commercial success, and for his next project he conceived a new adaptation of another of Shakespeare’s famous plays, “Romeo and Juliet”. A lack of funding however drove him to pursue a television production. Yet his fortunes changed when Paramount Pictures agreed to join in partnership with BHE Films, Verona Produzione and Dino de Laurentis Cinematografia to finance a big screen release. A budget of $850,000 was provided and the British team of Anthony Havelock-Allan and John Brabourne would produce the film. For the screen play Zeffirelli collaborated with Masolino d’Amico and Franco Brusati. In an audacious casting move Zeffirelli decided to cast the lead roles as minors, assuring fidelity to Shakespeare’s original conception. Leonard Whiting, a 17-year-old, was cast as Romeo, and Olivia Hussey, a 15 year old, as Juliet. Joining them would be Milo O’Shea as Friar Laurence, Michael York as Tybalt, John McEnery as Mercutio, Natasha Parry as Lady Capulet, and Robert Stephens as the Prince of Verona.

The story offers Shakespeare’s iconic romantic tragedy, which tells the tale of young lovers Romeo and Juliet. House Montague and House Capulet contest in a longstanding and bitter blood feud. To end the constant fighting the Prince of Verona informs both Houses that any more dueling violence will have harsh punitive consequences. Fate would have it that Romeo of House Montague would meet Juliet of House Capulet at a masquerade ball and fall madly in love. They secretly marry yet life around them soon comes crashing down upon their heads. Juliet’s first cousin Tybalt discovers Romeo attended the ball and challenges him to a duel. Romeo refuses as he considers Tybalt now family. His best friend Mercutio however accepts the challenge and is struck down by Tybalt. Romeo is outraged and slays Tybalt, which earns banishment from Verona by the Prince, with the caveat that if he returns, he will suffer death. Well undeterred, Romeo returns, spends a night with Juliet and consummates their marriage, fleeing the next day to exile in the town on Mantua.

When Lord Capulet announces his intention to marry off Juliet, she in desperation seeks the aid of Father Laurence. He provides her a potion, which simulates death, allowing her to reawaken 42 hours later to join Romeo in secret for a new life outside of Verona. She consumes it and is placed in a mausoleum and the Friar sends a courier to inform Romeo of the ruse. Yet Balthazar beats the courier to Romeo and informs him of Juliet’s death, which sets into motion a tragic sequence of events. Romeo rides to her, unaware of the ruse, and believes she has died. He kills himself with poison inside her tomb, unable to live without her. When Juliet awakes and finds Romeo dead, she thrusts his dagger into her heart killing herself, unable to bear living without her beloved Romeo. The story ends with the Prince admonishing both Houses for what their hatred has wrought. The film was a massive commercial success, earning $38.9 million for a profit of $38 million. It also secured widespread critical praise and was awarded four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, with wins for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

Zeffirelli had enjoyed his collaboration with Nino Rota on The Taming of the Shrew (1967) and so hired him for his second film. Rota understood that given the story’s setting, that he would have to impart musical sensibilities of the Italian Renaissance. To achieve this Rota infused his soundscape with liturgical hymns, Renaissance auras, regional instruments, fanfares, pageantry, pavanes, sarabandes, and a saltarello. Four primary themes support his soundscape; His theme for Romeo is carried simply by strings and a solo English horn or woodwind chorale, which perfectly capture his spirit. Its articulation is quite malleable, rendered with formality, the exuberance of youth, or wistfully. Masterful is how Rota transmutes Romeo’s theme into the love theme by altering its tempo, key and instrumentation. Juliet’s Theme serves as her identity, yet in the film it is later transformed to become the B Phrase of the Love Theme. There is a tenderness, innocence and gentility to its articulation, yet like Romeo’s Theme it is versatile in its expression, at times abounding with a carefree, lightness of being, bearing joie de verve.

For the Love Theme Rota composed an ABA construct that begins with a prelude by strings tristi and woodwinds adorned by harp. A Phrase is borne by wistful strings, which transfers to solo oboe, violins with harp adornment. The B Phrase is in reality, Juliet’s Theme. In this context it embraces her youth, innocence and happiness, emoted on strings with harp adornment joined by contrapuntal flute. The concluding A Phrase, is where the theme achieves a stirring romantic power, swelling on strings appassionato, desperately reaching to regain in vain what has been lost, concluding on an aching coda of the A Phrase. Notable was the melody resonated with popular culture, with it later rendered as a song, “A Time For Us”, arranged by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Eddie Snyder and Larry Kusik. It quickly became a pop sensation topping the charts in 1969 for two weeks. The fourth theme is the Conflict Theme, which speaks to the animosity and conflict between House Capulet and House Montague. Grim and at times dire statements by celli and bass churn with ill-will and dark purpose.

“Prologue and Fanfare for the Prince” offers a sublime score highlight where Sir Lawrence Olivier’s mellifluous narration and Rota’s music achieve a wondrous confluence, which perfectly captures the film’s narrative. As the roll of the opening credits unfolds against a misty panorama of the town of Verona, we hear Olivier commence the telling of the tragic tale;

“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife”.

As Olivier’s story-telling unfolds, Rota bathes us in auras of the Italian Renaissance, introducing a stately rendering of Romeo’s Theme, offered with dignity, grace and solemnity. He is of a noble House and the music proceeds with an aristocratic sensibility, embracing formality, yet we also discern both tenderness and gentility in the notes, restrained by formal trappings. In an intervening unscored scene Sampson of House Capulet, who is spoiling for a fight, provokes one with Benvolio of House Montague that spirals out of control with each House’s extended family pouring into the streets for a massive battle. At 1:09 we conclude the Prologue with fanfare reale, which support the arrival of the Prince with royal troops. He put pains of death upon both Houses if there is further bloodshed. Antiphonal trumpeting fanfare carry his departure.

“Romeo” offers a beautiful score highlight. It reveals him returning from a sojourn in the forest carried by a plaintive rendering of his theme a solo English horn and strings tristi with harp adornment. Benvolio is waiting for him and asks why he is so sad. At 1:03 as he speaks of the intangible, of what he lacks, a fanciful Juliet’s Theme enters on flute delicato, which informs us that what is lacking in his life, is love yet unrealized. At 1:31 his plaintive theme returns with glockenspiel sparkle as he sees wounded kin being taken by liter to his estate. The transfer of the melody among kindred woodwinds is gorgeous. He is distraught of the fighting and lack of love, departing dispirited and sad. After 2:42 the remaining music is dialed out of the film as the scene was shortened by editing. On the album we reprise a molto romantico rendering of Juliet’s Theme, which ends with a coda of his theme.

“Juliet” offers a beautiful score highlight, which introduces us to Juliet’s Theme. Lady Capulet is receiving beauty treatments and calls for her daughter. Rota provides an ambiance of refined gentility, emoting Juliet’s Theme with a duet of classical guitars. From this point there is a film-album variance. The cue from 0:31 – 1:01 is shifted to later in the scene. At 1:02 her theme becomes spirited, abounding with happiness as she runs to her mother presence. Upon her arrival a diminuendo usher in a discussion of marriage. Later, as mother and daughter depart for the party the cue from 0:31 – 1:01 is heard with Juliet’s Theme transferred to solo flute delicato with the guitars now strummed in support for an elegant statement. The remainder of the cue (1:32 – 2:08), which features the guitar duet was dialed out of the film.

“The Feast at the House of Capulet” reveals Romeo attending the Capulet costume ball disguised by a mask. Rota establishes the festive ambiance with a small ensemble, which abounds in happiness and joy de verve. Rendered allegro by bubbly woodwinds, strings animato and tambourine we see Juliet dancing with Romeo transfixed by her beauty. She notices, and so does her cousin Tybalt. Regretfully At 1:25 a time incongruity completes the cue with music attached to the very end of the extended scene. I will review this portion of the cue in correct film sequence.

“Did My Heart Love ‘Til Now?” offers a sublime score highlight, which features elegant interplay of Romeo and Juliet’s Themes. The music is expressed adagio, opening with Romeo’s Theme carried by flute delicato with guitar adornment as he stares transfixed by Juliet’s beauty. Her them enters at 1:02 on woodwinds tenero as she becomes aware of his constant gaze. Romeo is recognized by Tybalt, but Lord Capulet is gracious and will not have a fight spoil his party. He orders Tybalt to stand down. We conclude at 1:58 with Romeo’s Theme reprised on violins tenero with guitar adornment

In “The Moreska”, Lady Capulet soon declares “Moreska!”, which elicits the guests to join in the classic Italian dance that was popular during the Renaissance. Hand bells are worn and twinkle as everyone dances. The dance offers a symbolic fight for a girl as we see Romeo and Lord Paris seek Juliet’s affections. The women dance in an inner circle, with the men circling in an outer circle. At times they link arms and twirl together. Festive woodwinds vivaci with a hand bell cadence propel the dance movement with wondrous energy. Romeo and Juliet lock arms and both are enamored, much to the simmering anger of Tybalt. A stepped accelerando propels the dancers until Juliet steps out, forced by dizziness.

“What Is a Youth?” offers a romantic score highlight. It opens with the Love Theme on solo flute (not on the album), which ushers in a solo vocal by Leonardo (dubbed by Luke Bateman) of the song “What is Youth”, lyrics by Eugene Walter, accompanied by classical guitar. The song’s melody is the Love Theme, which finds a beautiful confluence with Walter’s lyrics.

“What is a youth?
Impetuous fire
What is a maid?
Ice and desire
The world wags on
A rose will bloom
It then will fade
So does a youth
So does the fairest maid.

The romantic melody for these two stanzas is a wistful A Phrase of the Love Theme.

Comes a time when one sweet smile
Has its season for a while
Then love’s in love with me

This stanza is carried by the yearning B Phrase of the Love Theme.

Some may think only to marry
Others will tease and tarry
Mine is the very best parry
Cupid he rules us all
Caper the caper sing me the song
Death will come soon to hush us along
Sweeter than honey and bitter as gall
Love is a past time that never will pall
Sweeter than honey and bitter as gall
Cupid he rules us all

These two stanzas are supported by a bright and confident allegro rendering Romeo’s Theme. For the final stanza the A Phrase of the Love theme enters on solo flute tristi, and is assumed by Leonardo’s vocal as Juliet circles to catch a gaze at Romeo.

A rose will bloom
It then will fade
So does a youth
So does the fairest maid”.

In “Their First Meeting” Romeo from behind a curtain grasps her hand and speaks of his love supported by a solo violin with flute and harp adornment emoting the yearning B Phrase of the Love Theme. As she joins him behind the curtain his theme and the Love Theme entwine in rapturous communion, climaxing at 1:47 with passion on the Love Theme as he kisses her. We close with Leonardo reprising his vocal of the last stanza. Juliet is then summoned away by her mother and the danza gentile return to restore the ball’s ambiance. We end with the Love Theme on solo oboe tristi with harp adornment, which enters when Juliet is informed by her maid that her young man is Romeo of House Montague, a mortal enemy of her House. The cue proceeds with an entwining of the portentous and dire Conflict Theme which intrudes darkly on celli and base.

“What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?” and the following cue support a crucial scene with masterpiece compositions, where we bear witness to a sublime confluence of spoken word and music. Romeo sees Juliet on her balcony speaking of her longing for him and he responds passionately, declaring his undying love for her. Shakespeare’s words are timeless;

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
“That I might touch that cheek!”

Masterful is how Rota entwines Romeo’s and Juliet’s Themes in a stirring, achingly beautiful tête-à-tête with his emoted by solo flute tenero and hers by a yearning cello. As they embrace at 1:20 a rapturous solo oboe emotes the Love Theme with kindred woodwinds in counterpoint, with strings appassionato joining with a Romeo’s Theme now yearning and so full of longing, yet its climax is unresolved as Juliet’s nurse calls to her and shatters the moment. She departs, promising to return and we flow seamlessly into “Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow” where Juliet returns and they once more embrace, and pledge their love eternal;

“Juliet -‘Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone
And yet no further than a wanton’s bird;
Who lets it hop a little from her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty

Romeo – I would I were thy bird.

Juliet – Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Romeo – Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father’s cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell”.

Once again Rota offers sublime interplay of Romeo’s Theme, Juliet’s Theme and both phrases of the Love Theme with rapturous, yearning melodic transfers from strings to woodwinds. Their love is ardent and Rota’s molto romantico music speaks to this and moves us deeply, bringing a quiver and a tear.

“But This I Pray…Consent to Marry Us Today” reveals an ecstatic Romeo racing to see Friar Laurence to beseech him to marry him and Juliet. A joyous allegro rendering of the B Phrase of the Love Theme, which transforms into an exuberant Moreska dance melody carries his progress. At 0:47 organ solenne supports a scene change to Friar Laurence digging for wild herbs. When Romeo asks him to marry him and Juliet of House Capulet, the Friar recoils, knowing full well what portends for such a union. He returns to the church with Romeo trailing, and as he enters, we hear fellow friars singing with reverence the Latin hymn “Salve Regina”. When he looks up at the crucifix, he has an epiphany, declaring that he will perform the marriage using the power of love to bring the two warring Houses together.

“Romeo and Juliet Are Wed” reveals Romeo and Juliet being wed by Friar Laurence in a private ceremony. Rota supports the ceremony simply with the liturgical hymn Ave Maria sung reverentially by Anna Polakov’s angelic vocal.

“Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater alma
Atque semper virgo
Felix caeli porta
Ave Maria, gratia plena
Ave maria, Dominus Tecum
A te clamamus, suspiramus
Virgo Maria”.

Poetic and masterful is that Rota has replaced the traditional hymn melody with the B Phrase of the Love Theme.

“The Death of Mercutio and Tybalt” reveals the volatile Mercutio provoking a fight with Tybalt. They are ill matched and Tybalt slays Mercutio, which arouses wrath in Romeo. Rota begins with the dire Conflict Theme churning beneath the dialogue on celli and bass. A stepped crescendo of rage commences to support Romeo’s fury, carried solely by the Conflict Theme, which swells, empowered by blaring horns bellicoso. The actual fight and slaying of Tybalt are unscored. In the aftermath The Prince banishes Romeo from Verona under pain of death if he ever returns.

“Night’s Candles Are Burnt Out” offers a wondrous score highlight. Friar counsels Romeo to seek Juliet to comfort and assure her, and then to depart in haste to take up residence in Mantua until such time the he can reveal the marriage and seek a pardon from the prince. Liturgical organ solenne adorned with bell tolls emotes the “Salve Regina” hymn and carries Romeo’s departure, transitioning to woodwinds as we find him in Juliet’s bed, having consummated his marriage. It is morn, and fragments of the Love Theme grace us as we see him rise naked in the morning light to her adoring eyes. As they speak of their love and kiss, a beautiful tête-à-tête again commences at 2:00 with his theme emoted by solo flute tenero and hers by cello romantico. The Love Theme joins on oboe delicato and blossoms as he embraces and kisses her passionately, unwilling to live apart. Once again, the confluence of the three themes is sublime

In “Adieu” the nurse knocks and warns Juliet that her mother is coming to her chambers, which precipitates a swift departure by Romeo. The album cue opens with dire strains of the Conflict Theme and plaintive Love Theme, which were dialed out of the film. The cue syncs with the film beginning at 0:59 with the Love Theme borne by guitar and strings, which transfers to cello romantico and tremolo strings as he descends from her balcony after a parting kiss. We close tenderly on guitar and flute as he waves goodbye and departs into the trees of the Capulet orchard.

“The Likeness of Death” reveals Juliet executing the Friar’s plan to prevent her marriage to Paris. A grim Conflict Theme supports her apology to her father for her disobedience. At 0:21 interplay of Juliet’s Theme and the Love Theme support her entry into her bedchambers and preparations to take the potion. At 1:28 an aching rendering of the Love Theme enters and swells as she drinks the potion. At 2:07 the Salve Regina melody supports the Friar giving a courier a letter to take to Romeo, which explains his plan. A fragment of the Love Theme carries his departure. At 2:45 a grieving Juliet’s Theme supports the devastation of her father viewing her dead body in the morning. We close at 3:07 with the funeral procession, which takes Juliet to be interned in the Capulet mausoleum. Rota reprises the Ave Maria hymn sung by mixed chorus, substituting its traditional melody with that of Juliet’s Theme.

“The Ride from Mantua” reveals Balthazar riding to Mantua to give his dear friend Romeo news of Juliet’s death. Music enters as Romeo absorbs the terrible news with angry statements of the Conflict Theme, which swells on a crescendo of pain, erupting at 0:28 as they ride off to return to Verona. At 0:55 horns tragico resound with a fragment of the Love Theme as they ride past the Friar’s courier. A horn declared Romeo’s Theme propels him on his fervent ride to Juliet. At 1:14 a diminuendo of grief supports his arrival at the mausoleum. As Romeo forces his way in Rota supports with a threnody, a molto tragico rendering of fragments of the Love Theme, concluding with finding her resting among the corpses of her ancestors.

“Death…Hath Sucked the Honey of Thy Breath” commences the first of three cues where the film reaches its emotional apogee and achieves a sublime cinematic confluence, where Rota’s music and Shakespeare’s verse join in wondrous communion with Whiting’s and Hussey’s performance. Romeo, who is full of heartache, comes to Juliet who is laid on an altar. He pulls the veil from her face and speaks;

“How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry, which their keepers call
A lightning before death! Oh, how may I
Call this a lightning? Oh my love, my wife!
Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.
Thou art not conquered. Beauty’s ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,”

Rota supports his anguish with the Love Theme emoted wistfully by guitar with a transfer of the melody to oboe affanato. At 0:58 he sees Tybalt laying next to her and speaks with aching remorse;

“And death’s pale flag is not advanced there.—
Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
O, what more favor can I do to thee,
Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
To sunder his that was thine enemy?
Forgive me, cousin.”

Rota supports with grim statements of the Conflict Theme by celli and bass gráve answered by a grieving solo oboe. In “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet” Romeo returns to Juliet and in tears speaks;

“Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorrèd monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?

For fear of that, I still will stay with thee,
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber maids. Oh, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,

And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last.
Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death”.

Rota supports with the score’s finest presentation of the Love Theme. A prelude by strings affanato and woodwinds adorned by harp usher in at 0:26 the A Phrase on wistful strings, which transfers to solo oboe, violins with harp adornment. At 1:08 we flow into the B Phrase, which speaks of happier time now lost on strings with harp adornment joined by contrapuntal flute. A tearful Romeo now kisses Juliet one last time and takes the poison speaking

“Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide.
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.
Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.”

Supporting this at 1:44 we return to the A Phrase, which swells on strings appassinato desperately reaching to regain in vain what has been lost, concluding on an aching coda of the A Phrase. This cue is a masterpiece, which earns Rota, immortality, the finest death scene I believe in cinematic history.

“O Happy Dagger” reveals the Friar entering and discovering to his horror, the dead body of Romeo. His devastation and grief are heart wrenching. As we see Juliet hand move and awaken her carefree and gentile theme emoted by woodwinds supports. The melody transfers to a duet of flute and warm cello and then back to strings and woodwinds for a wondrous iteration. At 1:04 a dire Conflict Theme borne on trumpets resound in the distance, swelling with increasing alarm, alerting the Friar of an approaching party. He exhorts Juliet to leave immediately, yet she asks where is her Romeo. When she turns and sees his dead body she refuses to depart and the Friar flees as he must not be caught in the mausoleum. The album cue ends here, and is missing the music of the rest of the scene, which I will describe. As Juliet bends down, she speaks;

“What’s here? A cup, closed in my true love’s hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.—

Rota supports with a grieving statement of the A Phrase of the Love Theme on violins and harp. She tries to join him in death by drinking from the vial, but no poison is left and speaks;

“O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after? I will kiss thy lips.

At this point we transition to the B Phrase so full of heartache.

Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make me die with a restorative.”

She then kisses him, hoping for residual poison on his lips and speaks;

“Thy lips are warm.”

The B Phrase swells with unbearable grief as she sobs, inconsolable. Approaching voices sound and we flow back into the A Phrase, reborn with intensity of purpose. She sees Romeo’s dagger, grabs it and speaks;

“Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger,
This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die”.

Juliet stabs herself in the heart and dies, collapsing with her head laying on Romeo’s chest. Rota supports her death with a molto tragico rendering of the A Phrase.

“Epilogue” reveals a funeral procession with our lovers borne by their Houses on liters side by side. The Prince admonishes both houses, as we see devastation on the faces of each House’s parents. Music enters to support the roll of the end credits, which open with a wistful exposition of Romeo’s Theme, which flows seamlessly into Juliet’s Theme, their themes now united, joined in death for eternity. We conclude at 1:15 with a molto tragico rendering of the Love Theme, which culminates in a flourish. Bravo!

I wish to thank James Fitzpatrick and Silva America for this sumptuous re-recording of Nino Rota’s masterwork, “Romeo and Juliet”. The score reconstruction by Mike Townsend and digital recording by John Timperley were of the highest professional quality, producing exceptional audio quality and a rewarding listening experience. The masterful conducting of the City of Prague Orchestra and Choir under the baton of Nic Raine would have earned Rota’s praise. Rota was tasked with supporting the eloquence of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest plays, a heart-wrenching and unbearable tragedy. He responded with a score for the ages, and what I believe to be the finest in his canon. Rota understood that he needed to speak to time and place and so infused his soundscape with liturgical hymns, Renaissance auras, regional instruments, fanfares, pageantry, pavanes, sarabandes, and a saltarello. He then conceptualized four themes with great insight to support the film’s tragic narrative; the forthright and masculine Romeo’s Theme, the feminine joyous innocence of Juliet’s Theme, the ardent Love Theme that binds them, and the dire Conflict Theme, which sow the seeds of their doom.

Rota also understood that the tale of Romeo and Juliet were the quintessential paean to romantic love, fully embodying its yearning, ardor and anguish. As such he labored to create a timeless theme, which in my judgment, succeeded magnificently on all counts. I believe the Love Theme is iconic and has passed unto legend, earning an honored place in the hallowed halls of the Pantheon of great cinematic melodies. The interplay of Romeo’s theme on flute tenero, Juliet’s on a yearning cello, and the Love Theme by oboe delicato, all woven together by sumptuous strings, was often achingly beautiful, providing stirring molto romantico passages. Time and time again we bore witness to a sublime cinematic confluence between Rota’s evocative music, Shakespeare’s poetic verse, and Whiting’s and Hussey’s performance. No one has ever written better than Shakespeare, but in scene after scene Rota’s music fully matched the timeless eloquence of the Bard’s words. Folks, I believe Rota achieved immortality with this score, and realized his Magnum Opus, a score brilliantly conceived, powerfully evocative, perfectly executed, and timeless in its melodic beauty. I believe it to be a masterpiece of the Silver Age and highly recommend purchase of this exceptional album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the timeless love theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-W_T1_BWBE

Buy the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prologue and Fanfare for the Prince (1:48)
  • Romeo (3:46)
  • Juliet (2:08)
  • The Feast at the House of Capulet (2:00)
  • Did My Heart Love ‘Til Now? (3:03)
  • The Moresca – Saltarello (2:40)
  • What Is a Youth? (written by Nino Rota and Eugene Walter, performed by Luke Bateman) (2:45)
  • Their First Meeting (2:47)
  • What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks? – The Balcony Scene Part 1 (2:48)
  • Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow – The Balcony Scene Part 2 (2:47)
  • But This I Pray…Consent to Marry Us Today (3:09)
  • Romeo and Juliet Are Wed (performed by Anna Polakova) (1:45)
  • The Death of Mercutio and Tybalt (1:06)
  • Night’s Candles Are Burnt Out (4:39)
  • Adieu – Farewell Scene (1:52)
  • The Likeness of Death (4:29)
  • The Ride from Mantua (2:46)
  • Death…Hath Sucked the Honey of Thy Breath – The Death of Romeo (2:01)
  • Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet – In Capulet’s Tomb (2:43)
  • O Happy Dagger – The Death of Juliet (2:02)
  • Epilogue (2:12)

Running Time: 55 minutes 16 seconds

Silva Screen FILMCD-358 (1968/2002)

Music composed by Nino Rota. Conducted by Nic Raine. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Recorded and mixed by John L. Timperley. Score produced by Nino Rota. Album produced by James Fitzpatrick.

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