Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Operamania 101: Unquenchable Thirst

Watch. How many of our faithful readers out there after reading this blog will inexplicably be overcome with a thirst for a cold 'un on a hot summer day? All of a sudden, I feel like an enabler as this Foster's Carlton Draught ad might certainly make one keep their eyes peeled for the nearest patio.

The 2005 Australian ad opens with 2 armies of choir robe-wearing men about to charge at each other "Braveheart" style. They run across a paddock to the strains of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana: O Fortuna but replacing the original lyrics with lines such as "It's a big ad....Expensive ad...This ad better sell some bloody beer."

Wow. So much testosterone.

And just when you think bodily harm will be inflicted and limbs flying everywhere, surprise! An aerial shot reveals the yellow robed men running down a clear path made by the red robed army, thus clearly looking like beer being guzzled down the gullet.

What you hear is the Melbourne Chorale singing O Fortuna and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment.

The viral ad was so successful, it won the prestigious Gold Lion at Cannes in 2006.

In 1936, German composer Carl Orff wrote O Fortuna which was based on the Carmina Burana manuscripts, a collection of 13th century songs and poetry written by students and clergymen, advising about the fickleness of fortune, mortality and vices such as drinking, gluttony and carnal recklessness.

However, if listening to O Fortuna sends shivers down the spine, it's probably because you recall hearing it as a soundtrack to horror movies, most notably 1976's The Omen. Although it sounds dark and evil, the song itself contains no diabolical message.

And since The Omen, O Fortuna has been heard in Excalibur, Glory, The Hunt for Red October, The Doors, Natural Born Killers, The Bachelor, Jackass: The Movie, Cheaper by the Dozen and Epic Movie.

And I may be totally dating myself here, but I also remember a remix of O Fortuna by Apotheosis. This 1991 electronica version certainly made its rounds around the alternative/industrial club nights.

Orff's Carmina Burana has achieved ubiquitous worldwide recognition. The touring production has played to millions of people; 100,000 in Rio's Copacabana Beach alone. Just this past January, Carmina Burana was performed in London's O2 Arena (capacity 18,000) involving 250 performers, dancers, fireworks, bungee jumping and stilt walkers.

Listening to this epic masterpiece certainly taps into that primeval feeling inside us all, what with its dramatic music building up slowly, all intense and taut-like, until it finally erupts into an explosive and triumphant crescendo.

So I kinda get why it was used for a beer commercial. Because sometimes you feel just THAT thirsty.

~ Ling Chan

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