What the heck does opera have to do with cartoons? you ask… Well, more than you might think! Opera is an all embracing artform, incorporating live theater, singing, orchestral music, and dance all into one package. Cartoons are like that too… a great big ball of drawing, music, comedy and interesting characters that creates its own world. The stories in operas are generally soap opera potboilers- incestuous love affairs, treachery, deathbed revelations, and even hunchbacks dragging around their murdered daughter in a sack! Cartoon stories are generally pretty simplistic too… the plot of the story isn’t nearly as important as the visual artistry that goes into telling it.
Maria Callas sings “O mio babbino caro” by Puccini
One of the things I admire in classical music is the way great conductors create magic by varying their tempi through accelerando and retardando (that’s speeding up and slowing down for us non-musicians). Minute adjustments in just the right places (aka rubato) can make the music broaden out or seem hurried, or languid… it’s the power to create emotion in time. Animators do exactly the same thing when they do “slow ins and outs”, “staggers” and “hitting accents”. Just a fraction of a second’s difference can make the heart swell.
The world of opera is huge and varied. It’s hard for me to boil down a recommendation. The best introduction on DVD (Zefferelli’s La Traviata) is out of print. But I encourage you to attend live performances, listen to the Met’s live HD simulcasts, add some operas to your Netflix cue, and perhaps pick up the DVD this clip comes from, Great Recordings of the Century.
This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.