'Triplets of Belleville' to be screened at Duke with live score, original composer


Next month, Duke Performances will combine the visual and the musical to produce an experience that audiences of all ages will not be likely to forget.

Composer Benoit Charest will lead the nine-piece Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville in a live performance of his score from the critically acclaimed movie "The Triplets of Belleville," in conjunction with a screening of the movie. The project was put together by the Montreal Jazz Festival for the tenth anniversary of the film. The performance is coming to Reynolds Theater on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.

“We’ve done a lot of projects that combine music and film over the last handful of years, and we’ve found it to be an enjoyable experience—an experience, frankly, that can only be accomplished in a live setting,” said Aaron Greenwald, Duke Performances' executive director.

"The Triplets of Belleville" was released in 2003 and featured very little dialogue, relying on the film’s soundtrack to propel the narrative. In 2004, Charest’s score won the César award for Best Music Written for a Film.

“The music has a much more narrative role than in some of the films where there is more dialogue, where you have to withhold a bit, where you have to be subtle and not overdo things,” Charest said, describing the music as another character in and of itself.

The movie follows the story of Madame Souza and her grandson Champion. While competing in the Tour de France, Champion is kidnapped by henchmen. Souza and her dog Bruno, along with the help of the renowned jazz singing group the Belleville triplets, go on an adventure to get Champion back.

“The soundtrack of the film was so inventive and evocative that it clearly evokes the 1920s and ‘30s and jazz, which are integral in advancing the narrative of the film,” Greenwald said.

While Duke Performances has put on shows in the past that combine visuals and music, it has never put on a show where the soundtrack of the film is played in tandem to the actual movie.

“We’ve had artists use archival film footage as the visual backing for the musical score they would make,” Greenwald said.

The music, as well as the animation for "The Triplets of Belleville," was completed over a three-year period. Since some of the characters were depicted playing instruments, Charest wrote music for these characters before they were animated. He then composed a final score once all of the animation was complete.

Charest describes the music of "The Triplets of Belleville" as a mash-up, combining different periods of music to reflect the different time periods depicted in the film.

“The music is a mixture of French music, jazz music, a bit of traditional music," Charest said. "It's a journey." 

Additionally, Le Terrible Orchestra de Belleville will be accompanied by a Foley artist, who makes all of the sound effects seen in the movie live on stage.

Charest’s tour will start in Toronto on Feb. 11. The first leg of the tour travels around America and finishing in Taiwan and Macau. The second part of the tour travels around San Francisco and Naples. Le Terrible Orchestra de Belleville has already performed about 20 shows with the same concept of playing live music along with the movie, traveling around Canada and to Los Angeles.

While Charest is focused on the music while he is performing, he enjoys the feedback he has heard from various audience members.

“They really enjoyed the combination of being able to watch the movie and see the band perform, because sometimes they get lost in one or the other,” Charest said.

Although "The Triplets of Belleville" came out over 10 years ago, its music, animation and themes still resonate with audiences today.

“The whole thing is a bit of a mixture of the past and some kind of surreal environment, and the music is a little timeless, in the sense that it captures different periods of music in the 20th century,” Charest said. 


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