Over the weekend, families and friends converged upon the Arts Centre, with the excitement of J.K. Rowling’s characters gathering at Kings Cross Station at the beginning of the school term. Instead of Platform 9 ¾, the audience entered various portals to Hamer Hall, to be transported to the magical world of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire recounts Harry and his friends’ fourth year at Hogwarts, the preeminent school of witchcraft and wizardry. It also marks the first soundtrack to be penned by Patrick Doyle, for the series of film adaptations previously composed by John Williams. (Williams was unable to write the score owing to scheduling conflicts with Star Wars III, Memoirs of a Geisha and Munich, among others.)
Three new major musical themes were introduced in this film, representing Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort; Harry’s crush on Cho Chan; and, of course, the Triwizard Cup. Doyle’s soundtrack is not inconsistent with that of his predecessor (whose themes are still present in the score). Moreover, Doyle competently took the score to a darker place than we’d experienced in the previous films. After all, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is notable for the evolution of Rowling’s novels to more mature and dramatic themes.
Nevertheless, it’s all about entertainment, and the feeling at Hamer Hall was suitably festive. Large banners festooned the hallowed Hamer Hall, representing the Houses of Hogwarts (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and yes, even Slytherin).
Conductor Nicholas Buc breezed onto the stage and offered a warm and friendly welcome to the audience. Mentioning each of the Hogwarts Houses by name, he asked audience members to raise their hands when they heard the name of their House. I’ve officially been sorted by the Sorting Hat, and my arm shot proudly into the air at the mention of Gryffindor. I tried to get my companion to raise her hand when Slytherin was called out, but she merely crossed her arms firmly across her chest and sank further in her seat: a cowardly act befitting her fellow housemate, Draco Malfoy, and one which caused us both to laugh heartily. It was such a fun way to warm up the audience, who were further encouraged by Nicholas Buc to applaud and cheer both the performances on screen and that of the Orchestra.
The lights dimmed and dramatic music burst forth as the film began. Any concerns I might have had about the dialogue competing with the music were quickly dispelled with the appearance of sub-titles, enabling the audience to follow the most nuanced of dialogue, while still enjoying the MSO’s wonderful performance. Indeed, I was heartened to hear the audience applauding the Orchestra at the completion of a number of scenes.
One might expect to be most impressed with the magical or epic themes performed in the Harry Potter films, so I was surprised to find myself moved almost to tears by the waltz theme that accompanies a montage showing the students learning to dance in the lead-up to the Yule Ball. It is one of the most poignant moments in all of the Harry Potter films, for we see Neville Longbottom, a heretofore hapless student of Hogwarts, gracefully dancing around his dorm room. It is a beautiful scene, but it was the Orchestra’s delicacy performing the accompanying theme that made the scene so powerfully moving.
The competition for the Triwizard Cup, around which the film revolves, is not without its risks (RIP Cedric Diggory). Thankfully, none of the audience or Orchestra members were harmed, and, at the conclusion of the film, all seemed enthusiastically grateful for having shared the experience.
Carol van Opstal attended the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” at Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall on January 31, 2019.