CSO, guest conductor Lin present ‘three-dimensional movie-watching experience’ with ‘Return of the Jedi’

Illustrations by Justin Seabrook / design editor

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

Scored with sweeping strings, triumphant brass and booming timpani, the music of an epic opera is set to carry listeners across the universe this weekend.

But this chapter of what is now an entire world of colorful characters and high drama was written in 1983, not 1883: The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is set to perform music of “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” alongside the film at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater.

Rather than a seasoned soprano or poised baritone with which to collaborate, guest conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin said the movie itself is “a super diva soloist” with unyielding demands and pacing.

​​“The film, … the image, will not change,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much I plead. So the tricky part is to work with this incredible soloist on the screen and to lead the orchestra to match that.” 

The score, however, was written by “one of the greatest composers of our time,” Lin said: John Williams.

The composer, who has more than 100 feature film scores to his name in his seven-decade-long career as the most Oscar-nominated person alive (behind only Walt Disney), is “masterful,” and “Return of the Jedi” is no exception, Lin said.

“The way (Williams) writes themes and the way he orchestrates all these for all these characters that he’s trying to describe or illustrate … it’s incredible,” she said. “It’s very genius.”

Lin, who will make her Chautauqua debut with this performance, trained in Taiwan then came to the United States for graduate school at Northwestern University. 

Pulling off a concert of this magnitude is no easy feat, but Lin said it’s all worth it in the end, particularly when the audience reacts to big emotional moments.

“I love during the concert we’re performing and hearing the audience cheering for their favorite characters when they hear the music,” Lin said. “The brilliance is that the music is telling the story, because everybody knows the movie so well. If you close your eyes, you know which character walked in or which character flew in or which character won the battle. You are hearing the movie and the music.” 

Even the biggest Star Wars fans can appreciate anew the layers that enhance this “three-dimensional” experience, Lin said. 

When everything is in sync and the live music elevates and heightens the intensity of the film — when Princess Leia attempts to rescue Han Solo and reveals herself as the bounty hunter, for example — Lin said the relationship between the performers and the audience is the most rewarding.

“The celebration of the rebel, to celebrate the fall of the empire — the entire room, you can feel that,” she said. “The trumpet of the horns, of the brass, everyone on stage soaring for that celebration; that experience is incredible.”


The author Sarah Russo

Sarah Russo is a senior at Syracuse University studying broadcast and digital journalism. At Syracuse, she reports and hosts for CitrusTV and writes for The Daily Orange and Baked Magazine. Sarah also interned at the National Comedy Center last summer. When she’s not reporting, she enjoys being outside biking, swimming or reading. As a Chautauqua County native, Sarah is excited to work in a place close to home and her heart this summer. She will be covering the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.