Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in the Zeffirelli film “Romeo and Juliet”, scored by Nino Rota
Once the actors have performed, and the film has been edited, it’s the music that adds that final, evocative touch to any film. Such is the case with film composer Nino Rota, who is perhaps best known for writing the music for Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1968) and “The Godfather” series. In an interesting turn of events, Rota’s Best Original Dramatic Score Oscar nomination for “The Godfather” was revoked when it was discovered Rota re-purposed some of his own music from the 1958 film “Fortunella”. It all worked out though; he won two years later for “The Godfather”, Part II.
Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) remains a classic, both for the film and Rota’s score. What’s striking about the score is Rota’s use of period and modern instruments, for an interesting blend of modern and past sensibilities. I remember seeing this film as a youth, and I was humming the tunes years later – to this day, I remember many of the melodies, and then the visuals – that’s how evocative this music is.
Nino Rota was born December 3, 1911 in Milan Italy, and died April 10, 1979, in Rome.