Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Richard Wagner and Romantic Opera (In Three Acts)

Act One: The Ride of the Valkyries -

In the opera-house, the Ride, which takes around eight minutes, begins in the prelude to the Act, building up successive layers of accompaniment until the curtain rises to reveal a mountain peak where four of the eight Valkyrie sisters of Brünnhilde have gathered in preparation for the transportation of fallen heroes to Valhalla. As they are joined by the other four, the familiar tune is carried by the orchestra, while, above it, the Valkyries greet each other and sing their battle-cry. Apart from the song of the Rhinemaidens in Das Rheingold, it is the only ensemble piece in the first three operas of Wagner's Ring cycle. Outside the opera-house, it is usually heard in a purely instrumental version, which may be as short as three minutes.

Act Two: The Leitmotif-

A modern take on the German leitmotif

A leitmotif (sometimes written leit-motif) (from the German Leitmotiv, lit. "leading motif", or perhaps more accurately "guiding motif") is a musical term (though occasionally used in theatre or literature), referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.[1] It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe. [2]

In particular such a theme should be 'clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances' whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be 'combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition' or development.[3] The term is notably associated with the operas of Richard Wagner, although he was not the originator of the concept.[4]

Although usually a short melody, it can also be a chord progression or even a simple rhythm. Leitmotifs can help to bind a work together into a coherent whole, and also enable the composer to relate a story without the use of words, or to add an extra level to an already present story.

By extension, the word has also been used to mean any sort of recurring theme, (whether or not subject to developmental transformation) in music, literature, or (metaphorically) the life of a fictional character or a real person. It is sometimes also used in discussion of other musical genres, such as instrumental pieces, cinema, and video game music, sometimes interchangeably with the more general category of 'theme'. Such usages typically obscure the crucial aspect of a leitmotif, as opposed to the plain musical motif or theme - that it is transformable and recurs in different guises throughout the piece in which it occurs.

Act Three: Bugs Bunny -

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What's Opera, Doc? is a 1957 American animated cartoon short in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros. Cartoons. The Michael Maltese story features Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny through a 6:11 operatic parody of 19th century classical composer Richard Wagner's operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) and Tannhäuser. It is sometimes characterized as a condensed version of Wagner's Ring (also known as the "Ring Cycle"), and its music borrows heavily from the second opera Die Walküre, woven around the standard Bugs-Elmer conflict.

Originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. on July 6, 1957, What's Opera, Doc? features the speaking and singing voices of Mel Blanc as Bugs and Arthur Q. Bryan as Elmer (except for one word dubbed by Blanc). The short is also sometimes informally referred to as ''Kill the Wabbit'' after the line sung by Fudd to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", the opening passage from Act Three of Die Walküre (which is also the leitmotif of the Valkyries). This short is also notable for one of the final performances of Elmer Fudd by Arthur Q. Bryan, who died in 1959.

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