A special program by Anton Giulio Mancino
What is the discreet charm of Maestro Pino Donaggio who has now reached the age of eighty and is still engaged on several fronts, from soundtracks to conducting? One answer is to be found, among many others, in one of his latest soundtracks. That of the political fictional thriller Domino by Brian De Palma, starring the couple of Game of Thrones stars Nikolaj Coster-Valdau and Carice van Houten, released almost at the same time as Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-nominated Dolor y gloria. And in which the famous song by Donaggio Come sinfonia is the keystone of the entire soundtrack and of the final revelation.
Donaggio distinguishes himself from his major composer colleagues — and not only of soundtracks — such as Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani, and exceeds the author category of Italian soundtracks even if of international fame. Thanks to his pleasant and austere willingness to experiment, diving into a new game every time, with the unmistakable understatement of a Venetian gentleman of past times, spontaneous, subtle and witty at the same time, Donaggio’s added value consists of the multiplicity of his experiences in the musical field, apparently so different from each other but shaped from the inside with equal rigor and passion.
The very young violinist — the promising pupil of Maestro Luigi Ferro, first violin of the Virtuosi dell’Opera di Roma, in Venice and at the Milan Conservatory, as an enfant prodige of classical music, then alongside Maestro Claudio Abbado in the Soloists of Milan, later with Claudio Scimone in the Solisti Veneti — when not even eighteen, suddenly transforms himself, and not by chance as it always happens in his articulated biographical plot, into a rock singer-songwriter, with a “wild” style, as defined by his first record, but basically a melodic at heart. He is not just any songwriter. Right from his first appearance at the eleventh edition of the Sanremo Festival, he was moving towards becoming one of the greatest and well-known Italian songwriters, whose main pieces of music have been sung worldwide, also thanks to famous interpretations and arrangements, from Mina to Elvis Presley. This allowed You don’t have to say you love meto sell over eighty million records, and became Elvis’ favourite songs chosen to be performed when he returned on the scene in 1970 in Las Vegas. Another classic, Come sinfonia, became the key tune in Dolor y gloria, Almodovar’s latest autobiographical masterpiece, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the last Venice Film Festival.
Not surprisingly, Mina‘s interpretation of Come sinfoniain a famous Carousel accompanies the international trailers of the film, and not by chance Elio Petri selected her for his debut film, The Assassinwith Marcello Mastroianni, along the lines of Luchino Visconti who had inserted Io che non vivoin a central scene of Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa…, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1965. After that, in a way almost bordering legend, Donaggio immediately paved his way to international success as a composer for cinema soundtracks, starting with his debut score for Don’t look now, which the British magazine Films and Filming awarded as best of the year, preferring it over that of Paul McCartney for Agent 007 – Live and let die. The arrival in Hollywood comes when Donaggio creates some of the most beautiful and evocative soundtracks for Brian De Palma‘s works, such as Carrie, Dressed to kill, Blow Out, Body Doubled Raising Cain, not to mention the collaboration with Dario Argento for Traumaand Do You Like Hitchcock? or with Argento and George Romero for Two diabolical eyes, based on the short stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
In the endless list of directors with whom Donaggio has collaborated, between cinema and television, Joe Dante, Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni, Liliana Cavani, Carlo Lizzani, Dino Risi, Terence Hill, Tinto Brass, Pupi Avati, Carlo Vanzina, Giovanni Veronesi, and Sergio Rubini. Among Donaggio’s latest awards and prestigious assignments the Tenco Prize awarded to him this year, the tributes in several television programs, and his appointment as guide of the quality jury at the Sanremo Music Festival in 2018.