Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF) was full of surprises this year, offering a great selection of movies and special events. By far the most exceptional one was 1927’s Metropolis silent movie screening at the Banffy Castle, accompanied by the Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra in Cluj-Napoca, scoring the original music composed by Gottfried Huppertz, conducted by the German conductor Stefan Geiger. How was all this possible? Business Review talked with Oana Andreica, the musical secretary of the philharmonic to find out all the details.
Who came up with the idea of Metropolis, the Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra and Stefan Geiger?
Firstly, it was about the collaboration between Stefan Geiger and our philharmonic; we had already staged The Adventures of Prince Achmed (2013) and Pandora’s Box (2015) with him. When we invited him back to Cluj, he had the idea of doing something in collaboration with the German Centre and TIFF. But, the idea of which film should be presented came from the German Centre. They were already in contact with the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, which has a significant part of Germany’s movie heritage under their jurisdiction. But the biggest advantage was that Stefan Geiger already knew our orchestra and our team, so he said that Metropolis can be done without any worry.
Tell me more about the process of re-creating Metropolis at Banffy Castle with the philharmonic.
The idea was launched last year, when the negotiations were settled with the German Centre. What was for sure, Stefan Geiger was “booked” to conduct our orchestra for a movie. After consulting with TIFF management, there were three movies on the shortlist, but Metropolis became the lucky winner. Our orchestra found out in late February this year that they would bring to life Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
How many musicians were in the orchestra for this concert?
The Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra had over 63 artists for this event, but it was a reduced version of the official score. We had fewer strings in the distribution, but the whole woodwind and brass sections were there because everyone is needed. We got lucky with a great technician, who helped us amplify to make up for the “lack” of strings.
Is Metropolis’ score adaptable for any orchestra or does it have specific recommendations?
The answer is no. First of all, this particular score is a physical endurance test for any orchestra who performs live. Just to have a brief understanding of what’s happening on stage, underneath the silver screen, in a normal score, the woodwind and brass sections have seven up to ten pages; for Metropolis, there were over 80 pages, which is a huge test of physical endurance. Also, there were few rehearsals, namely three, and the dress rehearsal with the movie included only took place a short time before the final concert. Without any false modesty, there aren’t many orchestras who can perform perfectly under these circumstances. But our orchestra is mature and very united, so this is why they can easily perform such complicated pieces.
In terms of space, was the open air from Banffy Castle friendly for the orchestra, or not really?
In terms of acoustics, the sound was incredibly good. This helped both the orchestra and the conductor, but there were some things to consider. Our artists had to get used to the space, particularly with the fact that they had to perform in the grass. It was even a problem with the contrabass because it has to be fixed in its endpin and on a normal stage, they have some special boards. All in all, they discovered that soil and grass can be good allies for classical music.
The dystopia created by the expressionist director Fritz Lang had new meanings through the grand interpretation of the Cluj Orchestra and a new record for TIFF was reached with over 2,000 people present in the beautiful open space at Banffy Castle.
Launched in 1927, Metropolis has influenced not only modern cinematography, but also pop culture, which has, along the way, borrowed and reinterpreted many of the symbolic elements used by Fritz Lang to illustrate the society of 2026. With a portfolio of tens of projects of sound portrayal of cinema masterpieces, conductor Stefan Geiger has been conducting the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Bremen since 2002, and was chosen the main conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Panama, Brazil for the 2016/2017 season.