Monday, April 10, 2017

Opera in TV Sitcoms

We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few years looking at examples of music in movies. But what about TV sitcoms? The popular 1990s show Seinfeld was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld to follow the whacky life of a stand-up comedian living in New York. I’ve always enjoyed watching re-runs of this show, but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the episode titled “The Opera” and realized that classical music can show up anywhere! 

In this episode, Jerry and his friends get tickets to see Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci. Elaine initially plans to take her boyfriend, Joe Davola, until he begins calling her “Nedda,” making false claims that she’s cheating on him, and trapping her in his apartment. Later, Joe Davola dresses up as Canio the clown from Pagliacci and Kramer gives him a ticket to the opera, not realizing his identity. During the final scene of the episode, Jerry reads off the cast list, including the role of Nedda. Elaine’s face reveals her horror as she suddenly realizes Joe Davola’s plan for his own Nedda (Elaine). The ending credits then role, playing the aria “Vesti la giubba” from Pagliacci, instead of the usual Seinfeld theme.

How is this significant, you may wonder? In Leoncavallo’s opera, Canio the clown plays the part of Pagliacci in a performance. During the show, he stabs his wife Nedda and her lover in a fit of rage and jealously. Joe Davola relates to Canio, while he sees Elaine as the doomed Nedda.

What classical music connections have you noticed in other TV sitcoms?

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