Opera at the Movies

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

When emotion is more profound, more extreme, more all-consuming than movies can capture, filmmakers traditionally turn to one source: Opera.

The makers of blockbusters from "Philadelphia" to "The Shawshank Redemption" have all used operatic music to underscore the emotional life of their films. This week, Marilyn Horne talks about singing for actress Dorothy Dandridge in "Carmen Jones" ("I was 20 years old at the time and pretty fearless.")

Operavore's Fred Plotkin explains how the women in "Moonstruck" and "Pretty Woman" didn’t get turned on to opera. James Jorden (also known by his alter-ego, La Cieca) names winners in special movie categories (for the worst opera music written for an opera in a movie, we have a tie). Plus, we hear about how the opera Faust turned up in Steven Spielberg’s movie "Lincoln."

Recordings highlighted in this episode:

Carmen Jones Original soundtrack

Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein set to music by George Bizet

"Stan’ Up an’ Fight" ("Toreador Song")

"Dat’s Love" (Habanera)

"Dere’s a Café on de Corner" (Seguidilla)

Mozart: The Marriage of Figrao "Canzonetta sull’aria" (YouTube)

The Roots of Swing:   "If I Had a Talking Picture of You"
The Pasadena Roof Orchestra

Citizen Kane and Other Film Classics: "Salaambo's Aria"
The Australian Philharmonic Orchestra
Tony Bremner

Camille Saint-Saëns
Samson et Dalila:  "Bacchanale"
The Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy

The Phantom of the Opera: "Don Juan Triumphant"
Original film soundtrack
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Iphigénie En Tauride: Introduction
Orchestra of La Scala
Riccardo Muti

Richard Wagner
Die Walküre:  “Hojotoho!”
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Georg Solti

Results from the best use of opera in the movies poll from last week:

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Below: Soprano Mary Dunleavy talks about her work in "Lincoln":

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Comments [5]

I wish you would have included some of the most transcendent moments in "A Room With A View" in which Dame Kiri Tekanawa sings "O mio babbino caro" from "Gianni Schicchi" (the air of which one hears intermittently throughout the film, so integrated it is in the soundtrack.) Dame Kiri also sings "Chi il bel sogno di doretta"
from "La Rondine" by Giacomo Puccini. Granted, just two arias in one film, but certainly sublime use of opera in cinema.

Feb. 25 2013 05:19 PM

The Met Opera plays a brief but pivotal role in the recent movie "Margaret," written & directed by Kenneth Lonergan. In the final scene, the teenaged heroine, who has no interest in opera & has resisted going, attends with her mother a performance of "Tales of Hoffmann." She is moved to tears by the duet "Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour," sung onscreen by Renee Fleming & Susan Graham.

Feb. 24 2013 06:19 PM
Kevin from New York

Not even a mention of "Fitzcarraldo?"

Feb. 24 2013 02:51 PM
Scott Levine from NYC

Great show. But there is no such thing as "worst opera written for a movie."

Feb. 23 2013 12:44 PM

Thanks for eliminating La Cieca.

Feb. 23 2013 12:30 PM

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