I was recently talking with friends who are avid ‘Movies in the Park’ attendees and it drove me to write a blog about famous arias that have been utilized in the movies. So here we go.
Habanera from Georges Bizet’s Carmen is a popular piece that is utilized in scenes where seduction is involved. A predator is usually circling his or her prey, and ready to pounce. It has been used effectively in such movies as Girl 6, Magnolia, as well as Bad Santa. More recently it was in Disney Pixar’s award winning animated film Up. The original aria, written for mezzo-soprano, was at one time considered unkind — focusing on a woman’s independent sexual nature, as well as her fickleness when it comes to men. Now it is considered more gender neutral.
La Donna e Mobile, from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, is a peppy tenor aria that has the Duke of Mantua boasting that his wife is unfaithful, although in reality, he is the one having an affair. The aria is heard throughout Rigoletto. The Duke’s rival, Rigoletto, realizes that although he paid an assassin to kill the Duke, the Duke survived and Rigoletto’s own daughter was mistakenly killed. The blithe spirit of this aria has been in many movies, most notably The Family Man. Its star, Nicolas Cage, appropriately performs La Donna e Mobile after cheating on his wife.
Pagliacci is one of two primary examples of a style of opera called verismo — a short, psychologically realistic opera that emphasizes then-contemporary settings and situations (the other popular example is Cavalleria Rusticana, another hour-long opera that is almost always performed with Pagliacci). Composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo, Vesti la Giubba is arguably one of the darkest and most melancholic pieces of popular opera music. In the aria, the title clown has just discovered his wife is cheating on him, but must put on his make-up and perform to a circus full of people. As the saying goes, the show must go on! Vesti la Giubba is used prominently in The Untouchables in the scene where Robert De Niro’s Al Capone feigns emotion when told about the death of his enemy, Jim Malone (Sean Connery). The aria is utilized as well in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love. It was also made famous in a vintage Kellogg’s Rice Krispies ad from the 1960’s.
While many people associate the instrumental Ride of the Valkyries (from Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure) with the movie Apocalypse Now, this exultant, soaring anthem can be found in Fellini’s 8½ and John Waters Mondo Trasho Ride of the Valkyries is about a group of women warriors (Valkyries) who are boasting about their imminent martial victory. The song is a war cry. The Wagner piece is also used in a vintage 1983 Maxell recording tape ad with the man sitting in his chair, hair being blown away by the clear sound the tape gives.
In Nessun Dorma (from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot) brash Prince Calaf claims he will do what no other man has done by melting the heart of the cold Turandot, a cruel leader who refuses to marry anyone but the man who can answer her three Sphinx-like riddles. This gorgeous tenor aria was most famously used in the movie, The Sum of All Fears in the scene where a diplomat’s car is blown up. This aria is noted for being Luciano Pavorotti’s signature piece.
All of these scenes and songs can be found on YouTube. Look them up. I’m sure you have heard them often, but never knew what the title was.
Lastly, Third Eye Theatre Ensemble is thrilled to note that on Sunday’s 2016 Tony Awards, Stephen Karam, librettist of our fall production, Dark Sisters, won the award for best play of the 2015-16 season for his book, The Humans. Congratulations to Stephen!