Tag Archives: Giuseppe Verdi

Tosca and James Bond

The 2009 James Bond film Quantum of solace marks a change in the conception of the opera visit in film, which typically shows opera in an idealizing light. Quantum’s opera visit, which may be a first in an action film, signifies detachment and encapsulates the subjective isolation of the protagonist.

The scene’s distance comes from the floating operatic venue (the Bregenz Festival), the voyeuristic production (techno-opera), the frenetic montage in much of the sequence, and the work itself, Tosca, which has parallels with the filmic story. Detachment is further promoted by a dry sound environment, a rearranged temporal scheme, and opera music that approaches underscore in its distance from operatic idioms.

Comprised of slow harmonic rhythm and considerable repetition, the two musical excerpts—the Te Deum that ends act 1 and the instrumental music after Scarpia’s murder in act 2—are noticeably static and impose a groundedness that separates the scene from the film’s other set pieces, which are extremely fast in music, sound, and image. The disposition of the operatic music points up the cinematic bent of Puccini’s score and its remarkable ability to accommodate the needs of the film.

Although Quantum’s opera visit is cynical toward opera culture, it captures the post-millennial malaise of the long-running Bond franchise and forms the high point of a film that disappointed critics and fans alike. But while opera may redeem the film’s larger narrative, the protagonist remains aloof from opera’s transforming qualities as he shuns engagement with the spectacle and the resonant music on the soundtrack.

Bond’s detachment is embodied in the symbol of the set’s iconic big eye, which not only reverses opera’s scopic dynamic by gazing at the audience more than the audience gazes at the stage, but also represents mediated looking at opera in general, as in the Metropolitan Opera’s HD cinecasts. While an operatics of detachment may seem like a contradiction, Quantum of solace persuades the viewer that it can be a vibrant reimagining of the special filmic ritual that is the opera visit.

This according to “The operatics of detachment: Tosca in the James Bond film Quantum of solace” by Marcia J. Citron (19th-century music XXXIV/3 [spring 2011] pp. 316–40).

Today is the 120th anniversary of Tosca’s premiere!

Below, the scene in question.

Above, Floating Tosca Stage, Bregenz by John Abel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Filed under Curiosities, Film music, Opera, Romantic era

Mice at the opera

 

In an experiment, researchers performed heart transplants on mice and studied the subsequent effects of music on their alloimmune responses.

The researchers exposed different groups of the recuperating mice to three types of recorded music—a collection of works by Mozart, the album The best of Enya, and Verdi’s La traviata—and a single sound frequency as a control. After seven days their results indicated that the mice who listened to La traviata had developed superior alloimmune responses.

This according to “Auditory stimulation of opera music induced prolongation of murine cardiac allograft survival and maintained generation of regulatory CD4+CD25+ cells” by Masateru Uchiyama, et al. (Journal of cardiothoracic surgery VII/26 [2010]). Many thanks to the Improbable Research Blog for sharing this study with us!

Below, we invite you to improve your own alloimmune responses while contemplating animated party food.

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Filed under Animals, Curiosities, Opera, Science

Verdi’s pigs

verdi-pig

Archivists at the American Institute for Verdi Studies discovered a document that sheds new light on Verdi’s activity just prior to the composition of his final opera, Falstaff.

A letter from the publisher Giulio Ricordi dated 22 August 1890 congratulates Verdi on the successful launching of a new business devoted to the sale of pork prepared at the composer’s Sant’Agata farm.

Ricordi, having purchased a “G.V. brand” pork shoulder, reports that he found the bill “a bit salty”, but for such exquisite meat he would pay “neither a lira more nor a lira less”.

This according to “New Verdi document discovered” by Martin Chusid (Verdi newsletter XX [1992] p. 23). (The information in this article, delicious as it is, appears to be outdated; see the comment below.)

Today is Verdi’s 200th birthday! Below, in Falstaff’s finale, the opera’s characters prepare to dine together—no doubt anticipating the composer’s own homegrown prosciutto.

Related article: Verdi’s gastromusicology

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Filed under Animals, Food, Humor, Opera

Verdi and Columbus

On this Columbus Day let’s look back to 1892, when the Milan publisher Francesco Vallardi celebrated the quadricentennial of the explorer’s first voyage with Albo di onoranze internazionali a Cristoforo Colombo, a lavish 406-page volume that presented reproductions of handwritten tributes by diplomats, scholars, and other luminaries.

When the call went out for contributions Verdi’s Otello had recently premiered to great critical acclaim. For his offering he penned a short excerpt from the opera (below).

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Filed under Opera, Romantic era

Verdi’s gastromusicology

In opera, eating and drinking function largely as they do in society—they define social relationships. The antisocial act of refusing to share food or drink with merry people carries a negative connotation and implies an unfortunate result. Further gastromusicological laws may be deduced from Verdi’s operas:

  • A meal is never sad.
  • Hunger is never happy.
  • A shared meal or drink is a socially cohesive event.
  • The presence of food or drink precludes immediate catastrophe (unless poison is involved).
  • The act of feasting is a morally neutral event, but a feasting group or individual is morally negative when contrasted with a positive hungry group or individual.
  • The hero is a sober individual.
  • Music and text may lie, but the gastronomic sign never does.

The interaction between these gastronomic codes and other interweaving codes is often complex.

This according to “Feasting and fasting in Verdi’s operas” by Pierpaolo Polzonetti (Studi verdiani XIV [1999] pp. 69–106). Above, Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas in Act 1 of La Traviata.

Related article: Verdi’s pigs

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Filed under Curiosities, Food, Opera, Romantic era