The Oscar that John Corigliano won three years ago for composing the movie score for The Red Violin stood last week, enclosed in glass, in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Corigliano was in town for the world debut of his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Ballet and based upon his movie score for The Red Violin. It was the first night of the new season, and the BSO had gone all out.
Large red letters shouted The Red Violin from the mezzanine, brilliant red faux-chandeliers dangled from the ceiling of the lobby, and black-suited bartenders served Red Violins (champagne, Chambord and a splash of vodka) in martini glasses whose rims had been dipped in sparkling scarlet sugar.
As classical musical lovers pressed through the lobby, a group began forming around the gleaming figurine. Dozens of audience members, more young than old, stopped to stare. A few cameras flashed. One man, perhaps in his 20s, laughingly posed in front of the statue, arm outstretched and hand curved as though he were accepting an award.
Displaying the Oscar in the lobby was the brainchild of Gregory Tucker, the symphony's 41-year-old vice-president for public relations. At a time of graying symphony audiences, Tucker and his peers at other orchestras are constantly on the lookout for that extra something that can attract the attention of the under-40 crowd and form the beginning of a relationship.
A talented composer who creates orchestral works acclaimed by both classical and pop culture worlds is rare. And Corigliano, at 65, the silver-haired and strikingly handsome son of a former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, does just that. In 1991, he won the Grawemeyer Award for Best New Orchestral Composition for his Symphony No. 1; in 2001 a Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 2; and, in 2000, for Best Musical Score, the Oscar, that glamorous and gleaming symbol of Hollywood.
Tucker knew an opportunity when he saw one. "It's not every day that a symphony gets to open its season with a world premiere by such a noted composer [who] won an Academy Award," he said. "The stars were aligned, so not to seize the opportunity to make the most of it would be foolish."
As soon as the performance date was set, the marketing professional telephoned Corigliano in New York and suggested he bring the not-so-small statue to Baltimore. Corigliano was willing, but he was going to be in Helsinki -- or was it Montreal? -- and the thing tends to wreak havoc with airport security.
There things stood, with how to get it here from there unresolved. Enter Mark Adamo, Corigliano's friend and fellow composer. Adamo wrapped the statue in styrofoam and clear masking tape, put it in a shopping bag and took it on the Amtrak train from New York to Baltimore, where it stood on display at the symphony hall, ensconced in a glass case on loan from the Walters Art Museum.
"It created a buzz, and it was huge. People crowded around and got their picture taken with him," Tucker said later. "It's about enhancing the experience."