Thanks to these cartoons, you might be better acquainted with classical music than you think. Take a look at some of the most iconic uses of opera in TV…
Looney Tunes: The Long-Haired Hare
In just under ten years, director Chuck Jones dedicated three Looney Tunes shorts to his love of opera. ‘The Long-Haired Hare’, ‘The Rabbit of Seville’ and ‘What’s Opera Doc’, also turned out to be three of his best known cartoons. The first in the trilogy, ‘The Long-Haired Hare’, features music from The Barber of Seville and Lucia di Lammermoor, to name a few.
This cartoon follows opera singer, Giovanni Jones and his Looney-Tunes-style quarrel with Bugs Bunny. At one point Bugs poses as the highly respected conductor, Leopold (Stokowski), who, like Bugs’ parody, was famous for conducting with his hands.
Have a watch of the full episode for yourself and see how many opera references you can spot.
Looney Tunes: What’s Opera, Doc?
This 1950s Looney Tunes masterpiece was director Chuck Jones’ famous attempt to ‘squish the entire Ring Cycle down to six minutes’. In 1992, it became the first cartoon to be deemed ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ by the United States Library of Congress. It also cost six times the work and money another other Looney Tunes cartoons of the time.
Wagner’s Ring cycle or Der Ring des Nibelungen in German, is a four-part opera cycle. The mythological masterpiece takes around 16-hours to perform in full, making Jones’ six-minute version slightly more digestible.
Family Guy: Model Behaviour
Family Guy parodied this famous ad in the season 4 episode, ‘Model Behaviour’. The song you hear is Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, from his famous Ring cycle. The ad itself was for Japanese electronics company, Maxell. In the 1980s they became an icon of pop culture with their audio cassette advertisement known popularly as ‘blown away man’. The famous ad has been parodied time and time again since.
Take a look at the original Maxell ad here.
Hey Arnold: What’s Opera, Arnold?
Where Looney Tunes focused solely on Wagner’s Ring cycle, the Hey Arnold! writers took their version of an opera-inspired episode to the next level by referencing everything from The Barber of Seville to Carmen. Through a number of dream scenes, the character’s star in a number of operas.
In perhaps the most notable scene of the episode, Helga appears dressed as the Ring cycle’s Brunhilde, as the famous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ is played in the background.
If you don’t recognise the piece from the opera, you might know if from this famous scene in Apocalypse Now.
The Simpsons: The Homer of Seville
After an unfortunate accident Homer realises that he has amazing operatic talents when lying on his back.
Don’t let the title of this episode fool you, Homer is in fact singing the role of Rodolfo in a production of Puccini’s La bohème, in an opera house which looks suspiciously like a famous building in Sydney.
The episode also features a cameo by Spanish Tenor, Placido Domingo, who goes by the nickname ‘P Dingo’. If those connections to opera weren’t enough, music from the overture of Mozart’s Don Giovanni can also be heard in the episode!
The Simpsons: The Italian Bob
If one Simpsons reference wasn’t enough, we bring you yet another opera parody; this time the ‘Vesti la giubba’ aria from Leoncavallo’s Clowns (in Italian: Pagliacci).
A perfect choice for the scene, this aria is sung by the clown Sideshow Bob. Similarly to the opera, in this scene the Simpsons are trying to convince the crowd that the ‘acting’ is real, and not just part of the performance. The Simpsons get rescued just in the nick of time, unfortunately the characters in the opera aren’t as lucky.