Quizzes, and Music, and Movies, Oh My!: Le nozze di Figaro in Pop Culture

Written by AVA Administrative Associate Stephen J. Trygar
Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

The Academy of Vocal Arts has been buzzing with activity the last few weeks putting the final touches on our production of Mozart’s masterpiece, Le nozze di Figaro. It will be opening this weekend on November the 9th and followed by productions on November 12th, 14th*, 16th, 19th, 21st**, and 24th***. While there are several sold-out performances, there are still tickets available for this breathtaking opera. Tickets can be purchased on the Academy of Vocal Arts’ website or by calling (215) 735-1685.

* Young Professionals Only Performance (ages 45-and-under)
** Performance at Haverford School’s Centennial Hall
*** Performance at Zoellner Arts Center

Today we want to test your knowledge of Le nozze di Figaro! This opera continues to delight and entertain audiences on and off stages around the world. Le nozze di Figaro has retained its status as an opera for its 233-year-old-history; however, its influence has been carried over into concert halls, movie scores, and various other forms of modern media.

To start, a quiz was designed to see what you know about Le nozze di Figaro! The quiz compiles ten questions chosen from the opera’s history and plot! Don’t worry if you get one wrong! Each question comes with an explanation as to what the answer is! Feel free to share your results on Facebook or Twitter!

Mozart’s timeless music from Le nozze di Figaro has nudged its way into our popular culture. The Overture’s depiction of the opera’s madcappery has repeatedly accompanied movie scenes and inspired other genres of music. Below are a few clips of various forms of media that have adapted Mozart’s score into our popular culture. It is not our intention to leave out any other appearances of the music of Le nozze di Figaro in any popular media today, so if we forget any, please tell us some of your favorites!

Beethoven’s Last Night – Rock Opera

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

In 2000, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an America rock band popular for its Christmas albums, released a rock opera titled Beethoven’s Last Night. It tells the fictional tale of Ludwig van Beethoven’s last night of his life. The devil, Mephistopheles, comes to collect his soul, but, with the help of Fate and her son Twist, Beethoven unintentionally tricks the devil and is allowed to keep his soul. This rock version of Le nozze di Figaro‘s Overture appears when Fate brings Beethoven to one of his happier moments in life, meeting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna.

Trading Places – Film

Overture in the Opening Credits

The 1983 comedy film Trading Places stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker named Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd) and a homeless street hustler named Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) whose lives unknowingly switch as part of an elaborate bet. The Overture, much like within the opera, is placed at the very beginning of the movie while the credits and chaotic scenes of Philadelphia roll past.

The Shawshank Redemption – Film

Letter Duet in Broadcast Scene

Morgan Freeman’s character, Ellis “Red” Redding, recounts hearing Act III’s Letter Duet, “Che soave zeffiretto,” broadcast over the intercom by this fellow inmate Andy Dufresne in the 1994 drama film The Shawshank Redemption. Despite his ignorance of the Italian language, he is moved to “think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words.”

The King’s Speech – Film

Overture in “To Be, or Not to Be” Scene

In 2010, Tom Hooper’s historical drama The King’s Speech was released. It recounts the story of King George VI (Colin Firth) who tries to cope with his stammer before appearing on the radio to declare war on Germany. In this scene, Bertie (a.k.a. King George VI) attempts to read Hamlet’s immortalized “To be, or not to be” speech, but when he gets frustrated with his stammer, Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, plays the Overture on a vinyl, places headphones on Bertie’s head, and tells him to read the speech again.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Film

Overture in the Musical Lock Scene

Mozart’s Overture to Le nozze di Figaro is so well known, that even a few bars of the main theme can be recognized by many. When opening the door into his candy garden, Willy Wonka uses the first few bars of the Overture to unlock the door, protected by a small keyboard hidden in the wall. Trying to be impressive, Mrs. Teevee makes the amusing mistake of accrediting the tune to Rachmaninoff.

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