March 2, 2007
What Ennio Really Said to Oscar
A true translation of Morricone's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards by Jon Burlingame
LOS ANGELES—Composer Ennio Morricone received his long-overdue Oscar on Sunday – an honorary Academy Award "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music."
Unfortunately, the moment was marred by presenter Clint Eastwood's botch of a carefully scripted introduction and inaccurate translation of the maestro's acceptance speech. Eastwood's only excuse was "I should have worn my glasses."
Although Eastwood is said to have a rudimentary understanding of Italian – from his time spent on Sergio Leone westerns in the 1960s – he could not provide an instant translation of Morricone's remarks. Morricone provided the scriptwriters with a rough outline of his planned speech in advance, and a general translation was prepared and conveyed to Eastwood via teleprompter.
In the interests of both accuracy and the historical record of Academy events, we consulted with Giulio Ongaro, associate professor of music history and literature at the USC Thornton School of Music. Ongaro, who was born in Italy, reviewed the tape and offered the following translation of Morricone's speech:
"I want to thank the Academy for this honor. I also want to thank all of those who very strongly supported the idea that this award should be given to me.
"I also want to thank all of the directors who have called me, and given me their trust, to write music for their movies. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them.
"My thoughts also go to all of the artists who deserve this award but never received it. I wish for them to receive it in the not-too-distant future.
"I believe that this award is coming not at a point of arrival, but at a starting point – to improve my work not just in the service of movies, but also in the service of my personal aesthetics on applied music.
"I dedicate this Oscar also to my wife Maria, who loves me very much and who has been so close to me all these years. I love her in the same way. This award is also for her."
Morricone's arrival on stage was greeted by a 50-second standing ovation and at least one shout of "Viva Ennio!" from the balcony at the Kodak Theater. Standing by during his moment of triumph – as he held his Oscar high – was singer Celine Dion, who offered the debut performance of "I Knew I Loved You," a theme from Once Upon a Time in America with new lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Seated in Morricone's box near the stage were composer Quincy Jones and director Giuseppe Tornatore, who has done eight films with the composer including Cinema Paradiso and Malena.
©2007 Jon Burlingame