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Opera Daily 🎶 — Uncovering Opera's Surprising Reach
This week's Opera Daily features opera's role in shaping and influencing various forms of music and pop culture
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The art form of opera has left an indelible mark on various aspects of our culture and continues to do so.
Today, opera’s influence can be seen in everything from musical theater and rock to film and even video games.
One way is through the incorporation of operatic elements into other genres of music, such as rock, pop, and hip-hop.
For example, the use of operatic vocals and grandiose, theatrical performances can be seen in the music of artists like Freddie Mercury of Queen, who was known for his powerful vocals. Also, the band’s music often incorporated elements of opera such as huge choruses and dramatic crescendos.
I’ve read that this section from Bohemian Rhapsody took the band three weeks to record.
Similarly, the band Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album features operatic-style singing and storytelling in a rock context.
Another way is through the use of opera in popular culture. There are numerous examples of references to opera in movies and television shows, such as the use of opera music in thrillers to create suspense or the portrayal of opera singers and performances in dramas.
The film The Godfather trilogy, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, features music from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, which is used as a recurring theme throughout the films.
In The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont, based on a novella by Stephen King, “Canzonetta sull'aria” from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is played during a scene where Andy escapes from the prison. The music’s joyful and upbeat nature contrasts with the grim reality of the prison and helps to emphasize the theme of hope and redemption throughout the film.
The use of opera in The Shawshank Redemption serves not only to create a rich and emotive soundtrack but also to provide a deeper understanding of the characters and the story. It illustrates how music can have a powerful impact on emotions and can act as a form of escapism, even in the direst of circumstances.
Additionally, opera has also had a great influence on musical theater. Many musicals have been created using the structure and style of opera, and some have even been adapted from operas.
The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, particularly his musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera and Evita, has been heavily influenced by opera. These musicals often feature complex vocal harmonies, and elaborate stage productions reminiscent of traditional opera.
And lastly, video games! The Final Fantasy video game series is known for its use of opera as an inspiration for its music and storytelling. The creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, stated that his love of opera inspired him to create the series and that he wanted to create a game that would evoke similar emotions as an opera.
One of the most prominent examples of this inspiration is in the series’ music. The Final Fantasy series is known for its sweeping, orchestral score, which is often compared to that of an opera. The music is known for its emotional power and plays an essential role in the storytelling of the games. The series composer Nobuo Uematsu often incorporates operatic elements into his compositions, such as choral singing and leitmotifs.
Below is “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” from Final Fantasy VI. This “opera” is performed within the game and serves as a central plot point in the story. The opera tells the story of a love affair between a human and an Esper.
When I feel down about opera’s impact on our culture, I get inspired by the examples above. Opera has played a significant role in shaping and influencing various music and pop culture forms. The influence of opera can be seen in everything from musical theater and popular music to film and fashion.
As we continue to explore the rich history and legacy of opera in this newsletter, it’s important to be reminded of its enduring power to inspire.
Would love to hear your thoughts on other ways opera has inspired culture.
Thank you for reading (and listening), and feel free to reply with feedback or leave a comment.
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we featured the most enduring arias in the opera repertoire.
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