The conductor who prepared Cate Blanchett for Tár

Cate Blanchett’s new movie role as an imposing conductor gives her a shot at another best acting award. But it has already given the Oscar winner the ability to conduct a real orchestra through a score.

The actress who plays the fictional American conductor Lydia Tár in the film, TarHe mastered the intricacies of the job by training with Natalie Murray Beale, a well-known star in the field, who lives in London and coached Blanchett for the role for weeks.

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in Tár

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár. Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features/AP

Murray Beale, the secret force behind the powerful performance, supervised the orchestral stages after guiding Blanchett during rehearsals.

“Cate can handle it now if she wants to,” Murray Beale said. Observer. “He’s very musical, he sings very well, and now he has the tools to conduct. Instead of learning the score or copying another performance, I suggested that he memorize the musical lines of the pieces.” Murray Beale, 46, directs opera, concerts and film scores, and is Australian like Blanchett.

“We’ve developed her own style, but she’s an ever-changing actress and we didn’t want that fixed, because there’s no strict, standardized way to do that at this level of conductorship. The best orchestra is the virtuoso, so you don’t need to do all the basics; You can express yourself more. We looked a lot into the physical aspects to ensure that the conductor didn’t have much respect for his lectern, because after all, it’s just his workplace.

Some early audiences protested director Todd Field’s portrayal of a manipulative and selfish woman in a rare position of authority, but the study of musicianship and toxic power has convinced many who have worked with classical music.

“I’m glad my colleagues are saying it’s true,” said Murray Beale. “We went into a lot of detail about managerial psychology. These malicious behaviors still exist. There aren’t many places where a boss has such power. A conductor is a watchman. At the rehearsal, I witnessed the anger and even the conflict between the conductor and the musician. It is a very competitive field.”

Murray Beale, a young conservatory student in Australia, was also impressed. “I experienced inappropriate behavior from a teacher I reported. However, the person concerned was protected. It is very difficult for institutions because they do not want things to reflect badly on them.”

The conductor believes that the “old boys’ club” is “to some extent” corrupted. “There is so much more variety now and musicians have so much more voices. This is an important, positive change.”

She argues that Field’s decision to cast a woman for the role of an abusive “maestro” allows viewers to see the problem with “fresh eyes”. Murray Beale adds that no matter what moviegoers decide on the subject matter, portraying a woman as an immensely talented, admired musician is of paramount value.

“It’s easy for people to have strong personal reactions to this movie, but the real problem for me is that the female conductors are not visible. So it was exciting to realize that this movie would be watched around the world, especially where women have never been portrayed in such domineering roles.”

Related: Tár review – Cate Blanchett is the perfect lead in the crazy, sultry drama

One of the most difficult elements of conducting is the task of absorbing all the musical material, but Murray Beale suspects that the most difficult moment for Blanchett is her first encounter with the entire orchestra in Dresden, Germany, where the film was largely shot. “Because of the quarantines, we didn’t practice much on this. Fortunately, we were able to do some rehearsals. I said ‘Don’t apologize’ to Cate and she developed a wonderful rapport. Whenever the musicians were exhausted and tired, he could turn the atmosphere upside down by making them laugh.”

And Murray Beale soon found a useful, unexpected parallel between the plot of the film and the musical work of a conductor. “As a conductor you have to create a lot of tension, the feeling that at some point in a concert piece everything has to break. I think that’s exactly how this script, and especially the way the movie is set up.”

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