By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jun 28, 2023 at 3:01 PM

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Bradley Symphony Center ... 

Indeed, for the closer to its live-scored movie screening series, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the summer by playing alongside the ultimate summer blockbuster: Steven Spielberg's iconic "Jaws," splashing back onto the big screen for a duo of performances on Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1. Whether this is your first venture aboard the Orca or you're a supreme cinephile who has the entire movie memorized, missing this unique live cinematic experience would be the greatest mistake since Amity Island elected Larry Vaughn as mayor. 

The waterworks won't just be on screen this weekend at the Bradley Symphony Center. Yes, brace yourself for tears as, after eight years at the helm of the MSO, resident conductor Yaniv Dinur will step aside and take his final bows at the position over the weekend. 

It's sure to be a weekend of big screen thrills, big emotions and bigger boats – but before these two live screenings set sail on Friday and Saturday, OnMilwaukee chatted with Dinur to discuss what makes "Jaws" and composer John Williams musically so special, to find out what other horror movies he enjoys and to look back at a remarkable run captaining one of Milwaukee's finest musical institutions.

OnMilwaukee: Are you a “Jaws” fan? Or was this your first time seeing this?

Yaniv Dinur: I didn’t see it before preparing for this showing, I have to admit. I knew some of the music (*imitates “Jaws” theme*) of course. But I just recently watched it preparing for this show, and it was pretty scary.

Are you a scary movie guy?

I love scary movies. I like this movie because there’s a lot of humor in it and the beautiful music of John Williams. But there were some parts where I was like, “Oh no, I can’t, I can’t!”

Do you have a favorite scary movie?

You know, I’ve watched all of the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” movies. I enjoy them.

Obviously everyone knows the iconic “Jaws” theme but are there any other music cues in the score that really spoke to you while watching the movie?

Yeah, actually, what surprised me were the parts where they were chasing the shark, and the music is so light-hearted. It makes it like an adventure movie chase scene, like a western with a shark. That surprised me. I think it was a very smart choice by John Williams to lighten up some parts of the film. 

John Williams is an iconic composer. What is it about his music that communicates so well across decades?

I think one of the things is his ability to write beautiful and catchy melodies that are not only beautiful and catchy but really capture the characters – something that he of course was very inspired by Wagner, who did that in his operas, the famous leitmotifs where every melody matches different characters. It’s a genius thing that he has. 

Also of course that he writes for a symphony orchestra, most of the time, very complicated scores that are very demanding for the orchestra to perform. Originally, he didn’t intend for this score to be performed entirely in a concert. He wrote such hard music because he thought, “OK, we’re going to record this in a studio in a few days, in parts.” But he never imagined that it would all be performed in one night. It’s very demanding and taxing.

Can you tell that the score wasn’t made for a full, straight-through performance?

Yes. Of course every movie has different levels of difficulty. “Star Wars,” for example, all those movies that we’ve done here are very difficult. “Indiana Jones” was also very challenging – that was one of the first movies that I did here with the orchestra. “Jaws” is not one of the most difficult scores – thank god – but it has some tricky moments. And it’s a very at times atmospheric and mysterious score. It’s more about the character and the color.

So this isn’t the hardest one you’ve had to do? 

Yeah, a few of the hardest that we did was “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Very hard – anytime you have a movie with songs, it’s very difficult because it has to be so exact. And the music itself is changing all the time, so it’s very challenging. “Singin’ in the Rain”: tough, very tough. 

What do you think it is about these live movie screenings? We talk about the energy in the auditorium; where do you think that comes from?

Our shows with movies and orchestra are like rock shows. Like you said, it’s hard to explain the energy – but first of all, it brings the music to the front, something that usually you have in the background, and you don’t pay much attention to. But there’s something about this concert that, because the music is happening live, it kind of makes you feel like the actual movie is happening live. It enhances the whole experience. And I always, at the beginning of every movie, encourage the audience that, if they like a certain part in the music or in the movie, they should clap. Because it’s live! It’s not like when you’re watching at home or in the cinema. 

You’ve been at the helm of most of these MSO live screenings. Is there a personal favorite movie or score that you would’ve loved to have brought to the big screen here?

I love Disney movies. We’ve done “Little Mermaid,” and I love “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” I always cry in these Disney movies. But you know, my dream is to – it’s not a movie, it’s a Broadway show – “Wicked.” That would be awesome. 

We have some sad news now, because this is going to be your final weekend as the resident conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. What has this experience been like at the MSO?

Look, I’ve been here for seven and a half years with the orchestra – a significant period of my life and the best musical time that I’ve had in my career. This orchestra has become my family; they’re amazing musicians and amazing people. I really love every one of them. And we’d done so much together: We’ve done classical concerts, movies, pops, educational concerts, concerts out in the community. They gave me the number: more than 350 concerts over the years together. 

I know this is like picking your favorite child, but are there any shows that really stand out from your time here?

There’s a lot. Last year, we did a sensory friendly family concert, and it was so special. It was for people who don’t normally come to concerts because it’s too much for them, the sensory overload. But it was designed especially for that, and we gave some of them some headphones that reduced noise. We played classical music, some John Williams, “Star Wars.” And it’s hard to describe the sensation of finishing the loud last chord of “Star Wars” and hearing silence with a packed hall, and turning around and seeing the entire audience waving their hands instead of clapping. It was amazing; it was an experience that I will never forget and I’m so happy that I was a part of it. 

The MSO's performance of "Jaws will take place on Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. For information – and for tickets before they all get chomped up – swim your way over to!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.