An Italianate Downtown Style in Hotel Portofino
The latest period drama from the UK is the britbox series Hotel Portfofino from creator Matt Baker (Professor T). It is set against the developing fascism of Mussolini’s Italy. The glamorous characters navigate these political winds of change. Stefano Cabrera (Lovers; Suspect) crafts a score that is undoubtedly intended to recall the likes of popular British historical dramas (Downtown Abbey) but brings a fine sense of thematic development and orchestral color often reminiscent of Alexandre Desplat with perhaps a touch of Piovanni, Bacalov, or Rota.
The opening theme is a delightful waltz with lots of churning strings and light melodic touches. A bit of dark color hints here and there add a mysterious touch. “Bella’s Theme” is a rich, romantic idea in the same vein as one might hear in Downtown Abbey. The busy string churning is often quite similar to that series’ score. A more dignified moment represents “Constance’s Theme” which provides a gentle relaxation (“A New Day”). A piano theme will also float across this texture (“Preparing for the Guests”). Sometimes Cabrera delights in interesting turns of phrase against lighter backdrops (“Morning Yoga”; “The Rubens”; “I’m Roberto”). “Claudine’s Arrival” has some nice swagger and period rhythm support. Some of the darker dramatic tension begins to appear in “After Hours” (“The Storm”; “Mistery”; “Sadness Reflection”; “A Pleasant Breeze”; “The Letter”). As we move toward the center of the score presentation, we can begin to hear some of that earlier darkness becoming a bit more pronounced as a sort of sadness begins to insert itself as well into more melodramatic writing. This includes some syncopated writing for “The Blackshirts”. Cabrera moves things along nicely as he navigates between the lighter, seemingly oblivious characters, and the unfolding history around them. It moves us to some rather subdued final moments (“You Don’t Need to Do This”). “Helen of Troy” gives a brief swath of the cello thematic statement that has been woven through the score as well. After an end title theme track to bookend the score proper, there is a bonus period song track, “Free to Be”
Hotel Portofino is really a rather delightful little score that shines with the orchestral touches that Cabrera adds to spice up his engaging thematic writing. The distant musical echoes that populate the score are still transformed enough to perhaps show off his own skill which includes some quite fine lyrical writing. The charming music here will make a nice companion to other scores of this sort of genre writing and makes Cabrera a composer to keep an ear out for in the future. The score will be available from Silva (SILVA 1681) as a digital download as well.