Roman Coppola Q&A: ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ creator
“Music is a human right,” declares “Mozart in the Jungle” co-creator and executive producer Roman Coppola during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above). Coppola, who developed the Golden Globe-winning Amazon musical comedy along with Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz, proudly discusses the show’s third season and the episode he directed, called “Not Yet Titled,” a documentary-style episode filmed in 16mm and set in New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail.
For arguably the most ambitious episode the show has produced to date, the cast and crew of the show were accompanied by a real orchestra to perform for the prisoners in the grounds of the Rikers Island facility. In taking on this challenge, it was fundamental for Coppola to demonstrate how universal music is to all people, regardless of class or status. “To be able to listen to music is something that everybody should be exposed to,” Coppola explains. “My curiosity has always been learning new things, trying new forms… Wouldn’t it be a wonderful event to bring music to people that aren’t often exposed to this kind of music. It appealed to me for many reasons,” he says. “We played a really challenging program, and they loved it. And that was the real beauty of the moment for me.” For Coppola, this meant more to him than just overcoming the challenges of mounting a TV series in such a demanding location. “Music transcends borders, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or what your story is. Music played with passion just penetrates through.”
The other highlight of the show’s third season was setting the first half amidst the legendary canals of Venice, Italy. Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal), the “maestro” of the New York Symphony, is there to stage a new opera with “La Fiamma,” a Maria Callas-like opera diva played by acclaimed Italian actress Monica Bellucci (“Malena”), who joined the cast this season for five episodes.
“From the get-go we thought that opera would be a fascinating world to explore, so that got into our imagination quite early,” Coppola reveals. “Thinking of opera, one thinks of the home of opera, Italy of course. And there’s nothing more visually thrilling than the city of Venice.” The producer/director was taken with how the antiquity of the old city was such a perfect fit for the music at the heart of this series. “Classical music is like an antique thing that is preserved, and yet we still enjoy it but it is from another time,” he explains. “In a way, the city of Venice is a beautiful place that is in a way kind of curated and remains as it was for us to enjoy.”