Wednesday, July 14, 2010

La bohème in Moonstruck

Opera can intersect our lives in unexpected ways.

In the 1987 movie "Moonstruck," Loretta (Cher) is a person who has never attended an opera. She is invited to the Met by the brother of her fiancée, with whom she is having an affair. The deal is that if he can have the two great passions of his life together at the same time he will be able to end their relationship and re-enter his life.

Loretta slowly prepares herself. She transforms herself by coloring her hair at the Cinderella Boutique. She contemplates a special dress and a pair of heels that remind us of Dorothy's ruby slippers.

As Loretta looks out on the Lincoln Center Plaza, music from La bohème sounds. A quotation of music from the opening of Act III is spliced into instrumental music developed from Rudolfo's Act One aria "Che gelida manina," as Loretta sees Ronny (Nicholas Cage) by the fountain.

As they turn to enter the Met, music from the opening of Act II invokes the Parisian Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve. To enter the Met is to leave the world behind. The cues from La bohème in this scene establishes an unsuspected connection between the opera, and attitudes that the characters are developing.

The operatic exerpt shown within the movie is from Act III. The music begins in D-flat major. With Mimi's first words, "Bada" (Listen) the music suddenly brightens into A-major:

"Listen, under the pillow I left my pink bonnet."
"Se vuoi, Se vuoi" (it's yours, it's yours)"

In the next line the A dominant seventh harmony that Mimi has been singing turns augmented sixth and shifts back to D-flat major.

"Keep it as a memory of our love."
"Addio, addio senza rancor." (Goodbye, no regrets).

Loretta realizes that this event is a pink bonnet--a memory of love that they must leave behind. It is A major within the context of D-flat major.

Opera intersects our lives in unexpected times, unexpected places.

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