Cirque du Soleil’s new Los Angeles show Iris scored in Sibelius

A scene from Iris, Cirque du Soleil's new show in Los Angeles

The Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles is the home of Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacular show, a journey through cinema entitled Iris featuring music by one of the film industry’s most celebrated composers, Danny Elfman. Overture, the monthly publication of Pro Music Local 47, the musicians’ union in Los Angeles, carries a story about the epic task of preparing the music for this major new show, which was handled by Reprise Music Services, who are based on the lot at Universal Studios and provide music preparation services for film, TV and other commercial projects. And, of course, they used Sibelius.

The article is a great insight into the many people who are involved in bringing a major project like Iris to the stage. Composer Danny Elfman would write the music using a DAW, and MIDI transcriber Marc Mann would transcribe it into notation on manuscript paper. The manuscript goes to lead orchestrator Steve Bartek, who would write his orchestration in Sibelius. The orchestration is proof-read by a team led by Misha Morgovsky, and then finally goes to the team of copyists led by Rob Skinnell to produce the parts for each recording session.

With a 94-piece orchestra to be pre-recorded, and an eight-piece live ensemble, it’s certainly a score on the scale of even the largest Hollywood movies, but with a set of unique challenges, as the stage production moved through rehearsals and the directors making changes right until the last minute.

An example of the no room for error, last-minute nature of the project, Mann described preparing for the first recording session at Fox Studios. “Danny sent out a new version on 4th of July weekend. Sessions were to start July 5 and he’d gotten feedback [to change] one of the very important cues with the vocalist. He sent out a version Friday night before the holiday weekend for a whole new version.” In order to avoid double time on the actual July 4th holiday, the team had to make sure all the work for the first day of recording was done prior to that day. Mann and Bartek worked all through the night, and the music was ready on the stands first thing the next morning.

“The team is completely capable of handling stuff really last-minute and getting great stuff on the stands right away,” Mann said. “No matter it was 4th of July weekend!”

One of the big factors in getting great stuff on the stands right away is the use of Sibelius:

Professing his gratitude for modern technology, lead proof-reader Misha Morgovsky summed up the project in a single phrase: “Thank God we had Sibelius on our side.”

Reprise Music Services have also recently been using Sibelius on a number of other high-profile Hollywood projects, including Thomas Newman’s scores for civil rights drama The Help and espionage thriller The Debt, Danny Elfman’s score for Hugh Jackman fighting robots blockbuster Real Steel released just a couple of weeks ago, and Clinton Shorter’s score for the forthcoming crime thriller Contraband, which will hit your local multiplex in 2012.

For more information about Iris, check out the Cirque du Soleil web site, and for more information about Reprise Music Services, check out their web site.


  1. Frédéric Chiasson

    Nice! Since I work to transcribe Cirque du Soleil’s show charts for their bands, I will surely see the new Iris scores… that I will transcribe in Sibelius, of course :)

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