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#063. Symphonies and Operas

Who would ever want to go to the opera? They’re long, usually in foreign languages, and everything is sung, regardless if it needs to be or not. Now, if you don’t have time to watch an entire opera, but you have more than 10 minutes to sit down and watch a movie, why not watch something about other people going to the opera (or symphony)? After all, there is some merit to getting dressed up and going out for an evening at the symphony (or opera). Besides, there is rarely an occasion to go out in public wearing a full tuxedo, top hat and cane without looking completely ridiculous. That occasion is the opera or the symphony. Of course, if you know anything about the plots of some famous operas, they really are quite exciting. And yet, sometimes the drama that is scripted for the stage is much less interesting than some of the drama that goes on behind the scenes. This week’s two films highlight some trips to the opera or the symphony.

A Night at the Opera
Year: 1935
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

The Marx Brothers are well known for taking almost any topic and turning it into a comedy. Of note are college and prohibition (Horse Feathers (1932)); war (Duck Soup (1933)); horse racing and insane asylums (A Day at the Races (1937)); and, of course, opera (A Night at the Opera (1935)). Considering the Marx Brothers’ talent not only as comedians, but as musicians, it’s no wonder they have what it takes to parody the “high form” of opera. And while Groucho’s singing, Chico’s piano playing and Harpo’s harp playing don’t particularly match up with the traditional methods, they nevertheless understand what it takes to be a musician. Besides, what would opera be without the music? People singing a cappella works in a few situations, but the opera is certainly not one of them.

A Night at the Opera is your classic love triangle affair. Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle) is being wooed by tenor Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), despite the fact that she is interested in a different tenor, Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones). And while Ricardo is the better tenor, Rodolfo is the well known “best tenor in the world”, which is why the New York Opera Company wants to sign him and bring him over to America. However, that’s not if Groucho, Chico and Harpo have anything to say about it. Chico and Harpo are trying to get Ricardo to be signed on as they convince Groucho that Ricardo is actually Rodolfo. Through a well placed stowing away and kidnapping, the curtain opens on Il Trovatore with Rodolfo nowhere to be found, but Ricardo and Rosa on stage singing their hearts out. Will this be the shot that Ricardo needs to propel him to the title of “best tenor in the world”?

The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Man Who Knew Too Much
Year: 1956
Rating: PG
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

The one aspect about the opera that is most well known is that there is no talking. Well, I mean, there’s singing on the stage, but what’s more obvious is that there should be no talking in the audience. This is also true at the symphony. Some of the most interesting sequences of cinema revolve around long sections of no dialogue. A story is allowed to unfold with merely the actions of the players and the music and sound effects to propel the plot. The Man Who Knew Too Much contains such a sequence, during a dramatic moment of a symphony. Still, for those expecting singing in this film, do not fret! The “Hitchcock blonde” in this movie is none other than Doris Day, who is very well known for the song “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)”, which is featured prominently in this film (and won an Oscar for Best Song).

What’s a great place to take your family on vacation? That’s right: Morocco. While the McKenna family is on vacation in Marrakesh, they become acquainted with a Frenchman (Daniel Gelin), and before you know it, he’s dead. Literally stabbed in the back. When the family heads back to England, Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart) needs to tell the police about a possible assassination attempt because right before the Frenchman died, he told Ben about the plot. Unfortunately, Ben’s son, Hank (Christopher Olsen) gets caught up in the plot as a way to keep Ben and Josephine (Doris Day) from spoiling the antagonist’s plans. Will they be able to save their son while also foiling the assassination attempt? Everyone heads to the symphony, but will they get there in time?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 reasons to get dressed up for an evening

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One response to “#063. Symphonies and Operas

  1. Pingback: End of Act Two | Cinema Connections

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