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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Sucking The Life From Opera Through A Lens

[Editor’s Note: If you refresh the page after you watch some of the YouTube videos, it will keep the videos from hanging up. Even after they’re over, they’re kind of still sucking video resources.]
{Author’s Note: The editor sure is smart.}

I like the melding of assorted kinds of arts. Opera is a meld of music and acting, for instance. My beloved internet allows for what’s termed a “mashup,” of course, a mucky pool I dabble my toes in from time to time. I’m all for it.

But popular cultural artifacts have vampiric quality, and it is growing. I noticed when I was young that Hollywood used to look towards serious — or at least notable –things quite often, and not solely as a veneer for their crummy stuff. That has slipped more than a bit.

Hollywood reminds me of a decorator that buys books by the linear foot for a client’s shelves. They’ll never be opened by the occupants, but are a kind of show for the beautiful people that visit. They want to extract the essence of serious things without the concommittent respect and intellectual heavy lifting. It’s the equivalent of casting Mark Twain as the corpse in Weekend At Bernies. Celebrity necrophilia.

I like opera some. It appears in movies from time to time, much too rarely to suit me. It’s in the soundtrack generally, but sometimes a little more. It almost always gets the vampire treatment. They want to extract the power and the beauty of it without paying. It’s a cheap gloss to use the “Flight of the Valkyries” in Apocalypse Now. But then again, the movie’s a cheap gloss on an important book, Heart of Darkness, so why stick at the soundtrack choices? Hell, this is a better use of creepy old Wagner:

I searched my mind for opera in the movies that shows real interest in the thing they’re cribbing. Hand in hand is better than on a leash, intermilieu-wise.

You know, I’m of Italian descent. There’s some pretty sketchy portrayals of Italians in Moonstruck. The opera is first-rate. Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, with Renata Tibaldi singing.

I have no idea if Very Annie Mary is a good movie. I only know about it by searching for “Oh Mio Babbino Caro” (My Dear Daddy) by Puccini, from the opera Gianni Schicchi. At least they have the sense to use it in a movie about a girl being reconciled with her father.

There’s a fair number of Oscar winners amongst the debris here. Life Is Beautiful won three, as I recall. I loved the Offenbach. The Barcarola (Song in the style of a gondolier)

The opening credits of Trading Places has a selection from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart as the music. Fantastic. The story is stolen from Mark Twain, by the way. Did you know Annie Gottlieb from Ambivablog is married to Jacques Sandulescu, the fellow that asks about the purse in this scene? It’s a small world.

Raging Bull has become over time a very highly rated movie. I’m not sure if that’s merited. I always liked it, but I’m strange. Director Martin Scorcese has always had a knack for choosing just the right music as the background to his pictures. This might be the prettiest piece of music ever in a movie: The intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. It is a profoundly Sicilian Thing.

If you look really carefully, you can sometimes find someone in a movie to explain the whole business to you while he’s entertaining you. The rarest of things — pure exposition plonked in the middle of an entertainment without the seams showing:

Amadeus won all sorts of Oscars; thank the lord they didn’t give one to Tom Hulce, who’s eating the scenery throughout the whole thing. Mozart’s Animal House! I think not.

Mozart? Yeah, he’s all that.

I’ve attended the Marriage of Figaro. I’m not sure exactly where the Austro-Hungarian empire used to be.

4 Responses

  1. Perhaps you couldn’t know opera’s [La Traviata] key part in “Pretty Woman.” She liked it so much she almost peed her pants. A dowager patron couldn’t believe she heard correctly, whereupon Richard Gere’s whoring corporate destroyer clarified, “She liked it better than ‘Pirates of Penzance.'” Of course, Garry Marshall, the director, is of Italian heritage also.

  2. I make an interesting cultural observer, since I am so profoundly ignorant about so many things that are part of the lingua franca at this point.

    Hey, there’s two examples now!

  3. 1.) There’s a great ‘explaining’ scene about how to work get comped at a Vegas casino near the beginning of Hard Eight.

    2.) another nice bit o’ opera is in a scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in True Romance.

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