Richard Wagner at the Movies

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The great opera composer Richard Wagner has had quite an influence on film music. Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" from his opera Die Walküre was used famously in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," but it also showed up in Russ Meyers' "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," in Ennio Morricone's score for the Spaghetti Western "My Name Is Nobody," the Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?," and in other unexpected cinematic places.

Wagner's orchestral sound—full of emotion, and stretching tonality almost to the breaking point—is one of the fundamental languages of film scores. And Wagner's "leitmotif" approach, in which melodies are associated with characters and settings, has been adopted for films as diverse as "Gone With the Wind," "Star Wars," and "Lord of the Rings."

As part of WQXR's Wagner Week, David Garland presents the sound of Richard Wagner at the movies.