Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Operamania 101: Fava Beans And A Nice Chianti

Not every movie gets its very own opera music. In fact almost all of the movies that use opera have been chosen from famous repertoires. That is why when you hear a piece of opera in a film, it is instantly recognizable even if you can't quite put your finger on the name or the composer on hand.

Then again, not every movie has a character as memorable as Hannibal "I'm having an old friend for dinner" Lecter.

Vide cor meum was especially composed for this 1991 Ridley Scott movie. Composers Patrick Cassidy and Hans Zimmer's inspiration for this piece was based on the sonnet "A ciascun' alma presa" from chapter 3 of Dante's La vita nuova.

This original piece of music played during the outdoor opera scene in Florence Italy, where Lecter, Inspector Pazzi (played by Giancarlo Giannini) and his wife Allegra were all enjoying a night out. A lovely aria building up to a tense confrontational scene where Lecter "politely" flirts with Allegra. Shoot, you do NOT want to go up against Hannibal the Cannibal. And we all remember what happened to Pazzi in that movie.

Since Hannibal, Vide cor meum has been used during the 2002 Oscars for the lifetime achievement awards given to producer Dino de Laurentiis and also for another Ridley Scott movie, Kingdom of Heaven. The aria also showed up as the bonus track on soprano Sarah Brightman's album, Symphony: Live in Vienna.

The piece only exists as an aria. There is no actual opera, as seen in the movie. That's too bad because how the opera was staged and how the venue was set up in the movie, looked absolutely stunning and haunting.

If Cassidy and Zimmer ever wanted to quit their day jobs, it may not be a bad idea to finish what they started. I'm sure opera fans the world over would be queueing up to watch a complete opera of La vita nuova. And while they're at it, opera-goers can furtively keep an eye out for Sir Anthony Hopkins (as himself, not as Hannibal) should he be walking amongst them. Cuz wouldn't that just trip you out?

Just putting it out there.

~ Ling Chan

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