Since its release in the early 60s, the film "Cleopatra" seems to have divided opinion sharply; some see it as a cinematic triumph, others as a sprawling mess. Nevertheless, most seem to be in agreement on one thing, and that is the quality of Alex North's score for the film.
I have great difficulty when attempting to sum up this mammoth effort in a few words. Is the music eerie, hypnotic, and haunting? Absolutely. Is it mysterious, evocative, and beautiful? Definitely. Indeed, when listening to this score, I'm struck by how subtle and sophisticated it is. So what do I actually mean by that? Well, the primary aim of a film score must be to augment the subject of the film itself, thus enhancing the viewing experience of the audience, and here, North succeeds admirably. However, the music has a freshness and vitality, a sort of "timeless" quality, which gives it a life of its own beyond the boundaries of the film.
I must admit that I'm not an admirer of all of North's work, some of which I find to have too "abstract" a quality about it. Of course,this is purely subjective, and comes down to a matter of personal taste. Objectively, anyone who listens to his music for the likes of "Virginia Woolf", "Spartacus", "Cheyenne Autumn" and "The Agony and the Ecstasy" can only acknowledge the man as a master craftsman, and "Cleopatra" as his masterpiece.
Finally, thanks to Varese Sarabande for making this double cd available.