A friend of mine commented on Facebook that “the bulk of [his] generation’s exposure to classical music has been through Looney Toon cartoons.” Upon reflection, I think he’s absolutely right.
A quick search shows that listverse has already compiled the “Top Ten Uses of Classical Music in Classic Cartoons” list for us. And who do you think topped that list?
Not much of a surprise, really. “What’s Opera, Doc”, the send-up of Wagner’s ring cycle. (Ah. “Kill de wabbit.” Definitely something we can thank Wagner for. Nazism, maybe not so much.)
Here’s an excerpt from around the 2:15 mark:
When I heard that bit, I was reminded of the mini-operas for the toddler set on Nick Jr. The Wonder Pets.
It’s interesting that both of these excerpts exploit one of opera’s great flaws (to great comic effect). When you set text to music (particularly music from the classical period), you often end up needing to repeat yourself. The phrasing practically demands it. In both of these excerpts the same line is repeated several times in progressively higher registers to indicate increased tension. To modern ears this sounds clunky, even silly. Hey Linny, instead of singing about the phone, just PICK THE DAMN THING UP! It’s a great example of the demands of the music working directly against the demands of the theater.
This gives me some ideas for future blog posts. I expect we’ll be seeing more of these excerpts in the weeks to come…