‘Cyrano’ composers Aaron and Bryce Dessner on the long road to the Joe Wright musical [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

The origins of Joe Wright’s emotional musical adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” simply titled “Cyrano,” started on a Connecticut stage in the summer of 2018. That’s when stars Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett first teamed up with playwright Erica Schmidt to perform the musical with songs and music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National.

“She approached us, approached our band, The National, about getting involved and writing songs. We had never written songs for a musical or even had plans to do that. It was kind of a surprise when she called us and it took a little while to convince us to try it out,” Bryce Dessner tells Gold Derby in our “Meet the Experts” composers panel.

An Off-Broadway run followed before Wright and the original creative team launched into a film production of “Cyrano” late last summer. But the songs in the film, Aaron Dessner recalls, are almost “unrecognizable in ways, from each other.” 

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“But I can say in terms of how the songs fit the narrative, the way the two would work — our songs are not extroverted needle-drop Broadway-style songs, so how does the intimate poetry of our type of writing work with the narrative,” he adds. “That was really what we had a chance to try in the theater.”

Set for release on December 31 by MGM before a broad roll-out next year, “Cyrano” made a splash at the Telluride Film Festival, where Dinklage’s performance and the film’s original and anachronistic songs had some audience members in actual tears during its first screenings. Wright, whose real-life partner is Bennett, put together a COVID-safe bubble in Italy last year for the lavish production and encouraged live singing from his cast.  

“I have to credit Joe Wright. He insisted on wanting to capture live vocals,” Bryce Dessner says. “We have performed on TV for the better part of 20 years and we know live recordings, rarely are they flattering. These are not singers acting, these are actors singing. So we thought, ‘oh it’s going to be brutal.’ But especially the three principles, they were so great.”

“Cyrano” is out on December 31.

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