Trav of Trav's thoughts has invented this delightful meme now into it's eighth month as a roaring success. Please drop in on his website for instructions and to sign in to enjoy the fun so that we can come visit you and see your music for the week.
More than 50 years ago when schools in California actually had money to spend on students, there was a troup of young opera singers who made the rounds of the LA school system introducing the students to operas. Since many of the students were being semi dragged to the mandatory assemblies, the singers usually stuck to the comic operas such as The Barber of Seville or light opera pieces from Gilbert and Sullivan. It was a good start and led to a willingness to listen to something other than popular music. Now I've grown to love opera and someday hope to actually attend one at the Met in New York.
The following arias have become so familiar that they are almost cliches, but they became popular simply because they are so very good and most people can recognize the melody if not the source.
Habanera - Carmen by George Bizet - It takes place in a tobacco factory. The noble corporal Don Jose has arrested the trouble making gypsy, Carmen. She dances around him on the end of a rope singing of love and passion. This seduces him away from his noble fiance and into conflict with Carmen's bullfighting lover. You just know this is not going to end well at all.
Nessun Dorma - Turandot by Giacomo Puccini - It is sung by Calaif (The Unknown Prince) to challenge Turandot to guess his name before morning. The cold princess threatens to kill all the citizens if they cannot determine his name. This time that last "Vincero" (I Shall Win) works out when she yields and says his name is love.
O Mio Bambino Caro - Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini - I actually wrote a blog article about the problems with teenage girls awhile back. Enjoy the story
La Donna e Mobile - Rigoletto by Giuseppi Verdi - The cynical Duke of Mantua blames all evils on the fickleness and constant changeability of women. Coming from a playboy who flits from woman to woman, you suspect he may be seeing himself in them rather than reality.
Sull'aria - The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - You may remember this one from a key scene in The Shawshank Redemtion. -
"Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free. "
The duet is actually the dictation by the Countess to her maid Susanna of a letter of seduction from another woman so that the Countess can catch her husband the Count in an unfaithful assignation. This results in a rather rediculous comedy of errors where everyone is chasing the wrong someone.
More and more commercials, TV shows and films are using operatic themes in their scores. One of the best was Moonstruck with its key scenes of La Boheme and the beautiful aria Quando m'en vo'. Lower the key. Hand the sheet music to Della Reese, and you get the hit song: Don't You Know.