Richard Wagner at the Movies

« previous episode | next episode »

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A still from 'Apocalypse Now' A still from 'Apocalypse Now'

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.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Comments [3]

John Kaufman from Allston, MA

Apocalypse Now also had music by Mickey Hart, of the Grateful Dead and The Rhythm Devils.

Sep. 09 2013 06:36 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The troubles that tear asunder the prospect of REAL "echt" WAGNERIAN PERFORMANCES are primarily based on the total lack of singers with squillo, ping, ringing "juicy', not dry secco , delivery, WAGNERIAN BARKING rather than legato full-throated singing, strained, forced and flat singing, unsupported, undersized and underpowered singing, WITHOUT impressive carrying power and with throaty or nasal ugly voice production. Today's news deals with deficits and declining support for the arts. Tandem to this predicament for the talented is the perception that the current situation will continue for a long time to come. Speaking specifically how this precludes the motivation for young operatic singers who must early on choosing their life's work, many have turned to Broadway or the business world. Nowadays Broadway musicals are out for show-stopping sensationalism with laser distractions, monster sets, acrobatic feats and space age technical projections and featuring dancing over singing. So, for the real thing opera singer, Broadway musicals, outside of Phantom of the Opera and an occasional Les Miserables there is little prospect of a sustainable career . The Wagner oeuvre has suffered the most. Husky physiques, witness the iconic John McCormack, do not offer similar size singing voices in power or stamina. Heroic voices like Melchior, Tamagno, Ruffo and the mature Caruso are nowhere on today's world class stages. Instead we suffer to hear miniscule, non-charismatic, non-distinctively memor able singing voices essaying roles far beyond their underpowered, thin not orotund, singing potentialities. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer [SHAKESPEARE and THE POLITICAL SHAKESPEARE] and director of The Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where all the Wagner and all the Shakespeare roles are taught as well as vocal technque for singing and declamation. www.WagnerOpera.com

Aug. 26 2013 06:47 PM
CParis from New Jersey

Actually, that was Isaac Stern playing the violin in "Humoresque". Itshak Perlman would have been a wee babe when that movie was released.

Jul. 29 2013 06:26 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.