Composer. Nationality: Italian. Born: Burano, 24 November 1941. Education: Studied the violin at Venice Conservatory and Verdi Conservatory, Milan; also studied under Ugo Amendola. Career: Singer and songwriter; 1973—first film score, for Don't Look Now.
Films as Composer:
Don't Look Now (Roeg)
Corruzione al palazzo di giustizia (Corruption in the Halls of Justice) (Aliprandi)
Un sussurro nel buio (Aliprandi)
Carrie (De Palma)
Piranha (Dante); Nero Veneziamo (Damned in Venice) (Liberatore); Amore, piombo, e furore (China 9, Liberty 37) (Hellman)
Tourist Trap (Schmoeller); Senza buccia (Aliprandi); Home Movies (De Palma)
The Howling (Dante); Dressed to Kill (De Palma); Augh! Augh! (Toniato); Desideria, la vita interiore (Desire, the Interior Life) (Barcelloni); Al di là del bene a del male (Beyond Evil) (Cavani)
Tattoo (B. Brooks); The Fan (Bianchi); Blow Out (De Palma); Il gatto nero (The Black Cat) (Fulci); Venezia, carnevale, un amore (Lanfanchi)
Morte in Vaticano (Death in the Vatican) (Aliprandi); Oltre la porta (Behind the Door) (Cavani); Jugando con la muerte (Playing with Death; Target Eagle) (de la Loma); Tex (Hunter)
Sotto il vestito niente (Vanzini); The Berlin Affair (Cavani)
Sette chili in sette giorni (Verdone); Il caso moro (Ferrara); Hotel Colonial (Torrini); Crawlspace (Schmoeller)
The Barbarians (Deodato); Dancers (Ross); Going Bananas (Davidson); Jenatsch (Schmid); La monaca di Monza (Odorisio); Scirocco (Lado)
La Partita (The Match; The Gamble) (Vanzina); Appointment with Death (Winner); Catacombs (Schmoeller); High Frequency (Rosati); Kansas (D. Stevens); Phantom of Death (Deodato); Sacrilege (Odorisio); Zelly and Me (Rathbone)
Indio (De Anda); Night Games (Vadim)
Meridian—Kiss of the Beast (Band); Rito d'amore (Lado); Two Evil Eyes (Romero)
Raising Cain (De Palma); Indio 2—The Revolt (Dawson); A Fine Romance (Tchin-Tchin; Cin Cin) (Saks); La Setta (The Devil's Daughter) (Soavi); Trauma (Argento); Così fan tutte (All Women Do It) (Brass); Missione d'amore (Risi—mini for TV)
Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (Schmoeller); Pakt mit dem Tod (Sánchez Silva); Giovanni Falcone (Ferrara); Dove siete' Io sono qui (Where Are You? I'm Here) (Cavani—for TV)
Oblivion (Irvin); La Chance (Power and Lovers) (Lado); Botte di Natale (The Night Before Christmas) (Hill)
Soldato ignoto (Aliprandi); Segreto di stato (State Secret) (Ferrara); Palermo Milano solo andata (Fragasso); Mollo tutto (Sánchez Silva); Marciando nel buio (Spano); Un Eroe borghese (Ordinary Hero) (Placido); Inka Connection (Gremm—mini for TV); Never Talk to Strangers (Hall)
Oblivion 2: Backlash (Irvin); Festival (Avati); L'Arcano incantatore (Mysterious Encounter) (Avati); Squillo (Vanzina); Nach uns die Sintflut (Rothemund—for TV)
La Terza luna (Bellinelli); Il Carniere (The Game Bag) (Zaccaro); Le Ragazze di Piazza di Spagna (Lazotti and Sánchez Silva—series for TV); Die Stunden vor dem Morgengrauen (Gremm)
Die Sünde der Engel (Gremm—for TV); Coppia omicida (Fragasso); Il Tesoro di Damasco (Sánchez Silva) (miniseries for TV); Monella (Brass); Il Mio West (My West) (Veronesi); Prima del tramonto (Incerti); Morte di una ragazza perbene (Perelli—for TV)
Up at the Villa; Mr. Hughes
By DONAGGIO: article—
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), June 1984.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), September 1994.
On DONAGGIO: articles—
Fistful of Soundtracks (London), July 1981.
Film Comment (New York), September/October 1981.
Elley, Derek, in Films and Filming (London), January 1982.
Score (Bologna), June 1983.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 18, June 1986.
Segnocinema (Vicenza), vol. 6, no. 25, November 1986.
CinémAction (Conde-sur-Noireau), no. 62, January 1992.
Variety (New York), 14 June 1993.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 13, March 1994.
Variety (New York), 22 December 1997.
* * *
Pino Donaggio's association with Brian De Palma on a number of the director's deliberately Hitchcockian thrillers has led to the composer's being compared to Bernard Herrmann, and inevitably coming up the loser.
Herrmann provided De Palma with the intense scores for two of the director's earliest Hitchcock pastiches, Sisters and Obsession. Carrie, Donaggio's first score for De Palma, was to have been a Herrmann assignment too, but the composer died suddenly. Donaggio has been replacing Herrmann for De Palma ever since.
Early on, Donaggio had established a distinct and recognizable musical voice all his own, characterized by lyrical melodies—usually for woodwinds backed by guitar or piano—juxtaposed against suspense cues provided by jarring chords and sharply sustained string lines.
In general Donaggio's scores, often conducted by Natale Massara, show an ability to adapt to a variety of classical and contemporary stylings. Donaggio likes to experiment with a broad range of musical styles, such as the Giorgio Moroder-style effects in Body Double or the pop presentation of a Rossini-style overture for the comedy Home Movies.
His stylistic signature of using the same instrumentation for both love themes and suspenseful passages evidenced itself in his first major score, for Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now. The score's lyrical themes give way to trills in the upper registers of the woodwinds, high-pitched strings, and jarring chords on piano, guitar, and harp. Don't Look Now shows evidence of Donaggio's classical training as well as his background in jazz and pop, and also shows his ability to deliberately compose against the tone of the film by providing richly melodic themes identified with the characters rather than the terrifying events that are occurring.
By employing Herrmannesque orchestrations and compositional elements in his subsequent work for De Palma, Donaggio has significantly muted this early voice, becoming a sort of ersatz-Herrmann instead—and, therefore, complicit in the negative comparison that haunts him.
His recent, often very different work, in genres other than the De Palma thriller may, in time, bring an end to the invited Herrmann comparisons and lead to his being recognized for his own individual, often lyrical, style. Donaggio has been associated with Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling) and more recently with Liliana Cavani (Behind the Door, The Berlin Affair). Donaggio has provided scores for Westerns (Amore, piombo, e furore), political thrillers (Corruzione al palazzo di giustizia), contemporary dramas (Tex), and light romantic films (Over the Brooklyn Bridge).
Despite the diversity of subject matter and use of various musical styles, these scores are more characteristic of the real—i.e., non-Herrmann—Donaggio, than his work for De Palma.
—Richard R. Ness, updated by John McCarty