Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Operamania 101: Fiiii-ga-rooooo?

My friend wanted to buy a ticket to The Marriage of Figaro because he wanted to hear that famous song with that famous line "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro....Fiiii-ga-roooooo!"

He, of course, remembered hearing that song in various cartoons growing up:

Bugs Bunny's The Long-Haired Hare

Merrie Melodies' One Froggy Evening

Tom & Jerry's The Cat Above And The Mouse Below

Droopy's Droopy Opera.

MGM Cartoons' Magical Maestro

I had to stop him in his tracks to tell him that the song he was referring to was Largo Al Factotum, which is actually from Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais wrote a trilogy of stories that featured the character Figaro: Le Barbier de Séville (The Barber of Seville), Le Mariage de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and La Mère coupable (The Guilty Mother).

W.A. Mozart, along with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, made an opera out of Beaumarchais' comedy, The Marriage of Figaro. Rossini and librettist Cesare Sterbini, on the other hand, made an opera out of The Barber of Seville.

A common mistake.

Slightly confused, he wondered if he heard anything from The Marriage of Figaro before.

If he had seen Shawshank Redemption, the answer would be yes. Sull'aria Che soave zeffiretto from Act III of The Marriage of Figaro was used in the 1994 film, which starred Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Tim Robbins' character, Andy, locks himself in the prison warden's office and inspires his cellmates by playing Mozart over the prison's PA system. A little humanity in an inhumane place. This lyrical act of defiance was the iconic moment of the movie.

My Figaro-curious friend would also have heard Mozart in Trading Places (1983), The Last Action Hero (1993), The Whole Ten Yards (2004) and Wedding Crashers (2005). All of these movies include snippets from the overture of The Marriage of Figaro. Sometimes it's quite obvious, like in the entire opening credits of Trading Places, whereas you can barely hear it in Wedding Crashers, during the church scene with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

Clockwise from top left: The Whole Ten Yards, Wedding Crashers, The Last Action Hero, Trading Places

More recently, it was used in last year's hit movie, Zombieland. Forty-three minutes into Zombieland, The Marriage of Figaro, K.492 Overture can be heard as the four main characters decimate an Indian trading post. The quartet wreck havoc on headdresses, cowboy hats, tchotchkes, turquoise jewellery, shelving and windows; a result of pent-up frustrations from living so long in a zombified world.

And as Mozart's overture comes to a sweet end, you'll hear the main character, Columbus, telling us to "Enjoy the little things, even if that means destroying a whole lot of little things."

I think Mozart would approve.

~ Ling Chan

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