As this column is published, FX will be just about halfway through its marathon of every episode of "The Simpsons"—that’s 552 shows broadcast over 12 days. Looking back at the history of the show, we’ve ranked five notorious classical music performances:
1. “Cape Feare”
One of the best episodes ever (it even inspired an off-Broadway hit), “Cape Feare” begins when Bart’s nemesis, Sideshow Bob, is discharged from prison. The Simpsons enter the witness protection program to elude Bob. To accompany the drive to their new home, they sing along to the FBI Light Opera Society’s complete Gilbert & Sullivan, which Lisa finds in the car. The cassette tapes prove useful later on as homicidal Bob corners Bart and offers him one last request. Bart asks Bob to sing the entire H.M.S. Pinafore, and Bob obliges: “I shall send you to heaven, before I send you to hell.”
2. "The Seven-Beer Snitch"
Perhaps the most celebrated concert in Springfield history came in Season 16, when Marge spearheads the charge to build a new Frank Gehry-designed concert hall—which bears a striking resemblance to Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. The opening program features the Springfield Orchestra (its only appearance in the series) playing Beethoven’s Fifth. After the opening bars, the crowd leaves. “It sounds better on my cellphone,” says series barfly Lenny. When Marge mentions that the next program features an atonal medley by Philip Glass, even the orchestra joins the fleeing hall. Facing bankruptcy, Mr. Burns buys the building and turns it into a prison.
3. "Margical History Tour"
Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus provides the inspiration for Marge’s account of Mozart’s life, who she describes as "a bad-ass rocker who lived fast and died young.” Bart takes on the role of Mozart, and Lisa is his rival Salieri. Central in the vignette is the opera “The Musical Fruit,” with the same score as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and lyrics that reflect Bart’s infatuation with beans. Unfortunately for young Mozart, Salieri spikes the Emperor’s wine, causing him to fall asleep during the opera performance, and the rest of the audience follows his lead. This, according to Marge, leads to Mozart’s demise. Lisa, ever the bookworm, corrects her mother’s history.
4. “Fabulous Faker Boy”
In the “Fabulous Faker Boy,” season 24 episode 20, Principal Skinner convinces Marge to enroll Bart in music lessons to curb his destructive impulses. Instead, Bart takes piano lessons to ogle his drop-dead gorgeous Russian teacher. To impress her, he fakes playing Chopin during a recital, and enters into the 10-and-under talent show. Though classical fans will also enjoy Sideshow Mel’s performance of Flight of the Bumblebee, and the appearance of a Theremin-type contraption, the episode won headlines for featuring Justin Bieber.
Among the many famous guests to appear on the show, there are remarkably few classical musicians, however in Season 7, the London Symphony Orchestra stopped by to take part in the indie music festival, Hullabalooza, where Homer has become an attraction for stopping cannon balls with his stomach. When the LSO arrives, the orchestra can't figure out who actually booked them (it was Peter Frampton). The rap group Cypress Hill claims them for a memorable version of “Insane in the Brain.”
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