The Barber of Seville and mickeymousing

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By ANNATERESS FABRIS*

Considerations about the uses of excerpts from Rossini's operas in North American animation cinema

Music is a fundamental element in animation cinema, as it helps to identify “characters, genres, styles and languages”. To this end, director, musician and animators must work together, either to give up certain movements depending on the music, or to lengthen or shorten the music depending on the action to be commented on. Guido Michelone and Giuseppe Valenzise, ​​from whose book the first considerations on the subject were taken, believe that this type of collaboration contributes to the development of animation itself. In his view, the need to follow musical beats “disciplines the work of designers, forcing them to always find the most concise way to elaborate an action, without extra frames. This helps to seek the essence of the action and the idea that is at its base”.

If Walt Disney is undoubtedly a pioneer in the introduction of sound in the animated universe thanks to The Steam Willie (Steamboat Willie, 1928), one cannot forget the experiments made by the Fleischer studio with the series Ko-Ko song car-tunes (also known as song car tunes) between 1924 and 1927. Max and Dave Fleischer invented in 1924 the bouncing ball, which consisted of an animated ball bouncing from syllable to syllable in the lyrics of a popular song so that spectators could sing along, accompanied by the room orchestra. Richard Huemer, the studio's main animator, recalls that the first sung animation was oh mabel, performed in 1924 at the Circle Theater in New York. The public enjoyed the experience so much that the director of the theater screened the film again, confirming the intuition of the Fleischer brothers, who then dedicated themselves to the production of countless sung tapes.

Nineteen films from the series were made with the Phonofilm system, patented by Lee De Forest in 1920. It was an optical soundtrack recorded on the film, which formed parallel lines; transmitted to speakers, these created waves. Another name little remembered in animation histories should be highlighted in this context. In 1928, Paul Terry, assisted by John Foster, directed the short film dinner time, which was part of a set of animations inspired by Aesop's fables. The film, which uses “synchronized” sound by Josiah Zuro, opens in August 1928 at the Strand Theater in New York and is officially released on October 14, but it does not arouse public interest. It is possible that this reaction can be attributed to the fact that the music that accompanied the stories of a woodpecker and a cat and of dogs looking for bones was conceived as background, without presenting a more intimate relationship between action and sound.

The premiere of The Steam Willie on November 18, 1928 at New York's Universal Colony Theater represents, on the contrary, a revolution in the history of cartooning. Inspired by the jazz singer (the jazz singer), directed by Alan Crosland and released in 1927, Disney uses a soundtrack composed of two songs: Steamboat bill, popularized in the 1910s by baritone Arthur Collins, and turkey in the straw, performed extensively in the XNUMXth century. Those responsible for the soundtrack – Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis – use the first song in the opening part of the film; the second rhythm is the final part, in which Mickey and Minnie interact with various animals, used as a phonograph (goat), percussion instruments (cat and duck) and xylophone (cow).

If the second part of the tape is characterized by unusual and funny situations – musical notes coming out of the mouth of the goat, which swallowed the ukulele and Minnie's sheet music; cow's mouth turned into a xylophone – it stands out above all for the pantomime tone it acquires at times, a direct result of the intrinsic relationship between action and sound. According to Leonard Maltin, the presence of the song helped sell the film to audiences and the film industry. What drew people to these early talking tapes was the idea that characters (and even inanimate objects) moved in sync with a musical beat.

The principle of synchronism between the visual and sound aspects of the cartoon will end up being known as “mickeymousing” thanks to the success of The Steam Willie. According to Michel Chion, “mickeymousing” consists of emphasizing and accompanying the actions and movements that occur in the film images by means of precisely synchronic musical figures and actions that, at the same time, can express “the stylized noises transposed into notes musicals”. “Mickeymousing” is part of a larger phenomenon that the author calls “syncresis”, a neologism that encompasses the terms “synthesis” and “synchronization”. An “automatic psychophysiological association between a sound phenomenon and a specific visual phenomenon, due to its simple synchronism”, synchrosis allows the cartoon to systematize a non-naturalistic relationship between sound and image.

With references to the series silly symphonies (Silly symphonies), Chion states: “Any object drawn synchronized with a note of music was transformed into that music, and this was transformed into the object. Synchresis made it easier to make the drawn world sing and dance than the filmed world, because the former is more malleable, abstract, stylized. Thus the resistance that the world opposed to submitting to rhythm and melody fell”.

The first film in the series silly symphonies represents an eloquent example of “mickeymousing” thanks to the soundtrack conceived by Carl Stalling. This one is inspired by Edvard Grieg[1] to create a foxtrot from which Ub Iwerks, Les Clark and Wilfred Jackson animate a unique skeleton dance. Directed by Disney and released in June 1929, The Dance of the Skeletons (The skeleton dance) is a playful reinterpretation of the medieval “dance macabre”, set in a cemetery. In it, four skeletons dance and play music, achieving a highly creative result, especially in the sequence in which the spine of one of them is transformed into a xylophone. The magazine Variety, who detects the high point of the tape in this sequence, also highlights the “perfectly synchronized” xylophone accompaniment that completes the effect sought by the filmmakers.

Launched in Brazil under the title of the danse macabre, the film is received with enthusiasm by Mário de Andrade, who defines it as “a perfect masterpiece, one of the most perfect things that cinema has invented so far. The quality of the drawing, the invention of the attitudes, the purpose of the musical effects, the parodies of Grieg and other composers, the perfect application of jazz to this, give the film an excellent artistic quality. These are the masterpieces of sound cinema. Everything else can from time to time present an excellent effect, a new quality, but it is either just a trial, or it is confusion, monotony and the cultivation of banality”.

Such words are clear evidence that the writer, dissatisfied with the use of sound in cinema, which boiled down to “some sentimental novels of the worst kind and jazz”, saw a creative outlet in the “little films at the opening of sessions”. It was to cartoons that music gave comic effects, and this was important to him, as he believed that comedy was “the most salient part of artistic creation in our time”. In addition to the Disney production, Andrade appreciated the “cat series”, which was “forming a necklace of admirable little films”.[2]

Stalling's idea of ​​building animations around the soundtrack will be adopted by other studios, expanding the mickeymousing phenomenon. It is important to remember that this forges a compositional technique inspired, in part, by improvisations and compilations of musical suggestions used by musicians who accompanied silent films. Stalling, in fact, began his career in the 1920s as an organist at the Iris Theater in Kansas City, where he met Disney. In 1928, the director asked him to compose the soundtracks for The gallopin' gaucho, plane crazy e The barn dance. Of these, only the last was a sound film, released on March 15, 1929; the other two, conceived as silent productions, opened in the new format on December 30, 1928 and March 17, 1929, respectively. Among these achievements Ross Care highlights plane crazy, in which Stalling “dizzily” pieced together fragments of melodies known to the public, which were in the public domain.

Between 1929 and January 1930, Stalling worked at the Disney Studio on two types of productions: animations in which the music would adapt to the action (notably those starring Mickey) and cartoons in which music would be the determining element with the consequent adjustment of the action. to the soundtrack (silly symphonies). This second solution is an innovation, since, in general, it was up to the music to adjust to the action. Stalling is also responsible for the idea of ​​not using the terms "music" and "musical" in the series to avoid commonplace. The title silly symphonies is the result of this design, accompanied by a “comic word”. The protagonists of the series are also suggested by the musician, who proposes “inanimate figures such as skeletons, trees, flowers, etc., which come to life, dance and perform other animated actions adjusted to the music, in a more or less comic and rhythmic spirit”.

After a period in which he worked in Iwerks' studio, as . for other producers and as an eventual collaborator with Disney (he made arrangements for scores and played the piano during the recordings), Stalling was hired by Warner Bros in July 1936. In the new studio, he joined the team of two animation series that were very successful: Looney Tunes (created in 1930) and Merrie Melodies (launched in 1931). Alongside Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Robert McKinson and Chuck Jones, Stalling participated in the creation of the “Looney Tunes style”, which was characterized by the presence of slender, awkward, agile, anti-heroic, daringly funny, who acted in scenarios reduced to a minimum, just to situate the action. The humor was accelerated by camera angle variations, flashy cuts and an absolute mastery of time. The duration of events was punctuated by fast, tightly coordinated musical cues, which could be accompanied by instrumental or recorded sound effects.

At the Disney Studios, Stalling was to work with XNUMXth-century songs and classical music; at Warner, on the contrary, he had at his disposal a vast popular repertoire whose rights belonged to the production company. This had as a business policy to use music in animations that had integrated the soundtracks of feature films. live action to induce the public to purchase them. On the soundtracks of silly symphonies, the composer makes use of excerpts from the opera Carmen (1875), by Georges Bizet (The terrible toreador, 1929); in Peer Gynt (1876), by Grieg; in murmuring flowers (1902), by Franz von Blon, by The Dance of the Hours (1876); in Amilcare Ponchielli, it's from parisian joy (1858), by Jacques Offenbach (Springtime, 1929); in Peer Gynt and A puppet's funeral march (1872), by Charles Gounod (hell's bells, 1929); in the troubadour (1853), by Giuseppe Verdi (The Merry Dwarfs/The Merry Dwarfs.[3]

To these workhorses of classical music, well known to silent film audiences, Stalling and other musicians from Warner Bros. and other production companies will add opera. The Barber of Seville (1816), by Gioacchino Rossini. the cavatinaMake way for the factotum"[4], sung by Figaro at the beginning of the opera buffa, is used by Stalling in several titles: you should be at the movies (You ought to be in pictures, 1940); serenade that kills (notes to you, 1941); The ducktators (1942); Tokyo Jokio (1943); Rhapsody rabbit (1946); back alley oproar (1948); Conductor Bugs Bunny (long haired hare, 1949); wise quackers (1949); and hare we go (1951)

Rossini's aria plays several roles in Stalling's scores. He takes advantage of the play's virtuosic feature to quickly insert it into Daffy Duck's imitation of Fred Astaire in order to convince Leon Schlesinger, the series' producer Looney Tunes e Merrie Melodies, giving him the place occupied by Gaguinho in Warner's animation sector (you should be at the movies). A similar idea is explored in Rhapsody rabbit: when touching the Hungarian Rhapsody No. two (1847), Bugs Bunny starts singing “Fi-ga-ro! Fi-ga-ro!”, when it comes to the end of a sentence by Franz Liszt that recalls the Rossinian aria. In propaganda films made during World War II, the musician accentuates the histrionic aspect of the goose Benito Mussolini (The ducktators) and its relationship with the past and not with the future (Tokyo Jokio).[5] In the 1942 animation, Rossini's music also paves the way for the advance of German troops; in the one from the following year, played fleetingly, the piece creates a counterpoint between its spirited tempo and a melancholic-looking Mussolini, sitting on top of a ruin and playing with a yo-yo.

Em serenade that kills e back alley oproar[6], the cavatina is sung at the beginning of the drawing by an alley cat and Frajola, respectively; but it is possible to think that it serves as a common thread for all the action, if the idea of ​​handyman is taken into account. The anonymous cat from the first film, hit by the book doctor Fu Manchu, give it back to Porky The return of Fu-Manchu; sings on the phone; steals a saucer and a bottle of milk and leaves a thank-you note; makes noise with a pot lid; he stars in a classic parallel race scene with his pursuer; sings him a lullaby, puts him to bed and turns on the radio; juggles the fence and sings once more; he is shot by the pig and dies singing in an operatic way; their nine lives chant the "Sextet" of Lucia of Lammermoor (1835), by Gaetano Donizetti, exasperating the antagonist, who throws himself out the window, judging by the sound of broken glass with which the tape ends.

freleng[7] he returns to film a very similar story seven years later, but gives it a more crazy tone with hints of absurdity. Frajola's antagonist is Elderman Trocaletras, prevented from sleeping by the cat's singing. Threatened with throwing objects, the feline enters the house, goes up and down the stairs singing; goes back to the yard, is hit by the book the thin man and send in return Return of the Thin Man; sings on the phone; he spreads grease on the steps and tacks on the floor, which hurt Elmer Man; sings and dances as if on stage; asks for the help of a cat to improve the concert; he reproaches the persecutor for lacking an “aesthetic sense” and an “ear for musical appreciation”; sings a lullaby, puts the antagonist to bed and shows off as an orchestra man; row a boat over the fence; drinks milk with alum and loses his voice; on top of a pile of garbage he imitates Spike Jones singing angel in disguise (1940). Exasperated, Elmer Man uses an explosive to get rid of Frajola and they both die. When he believes he has finally found peace, the man is surrounded by the spirits of the cat's nine lives.[8] singing Donizetti's aria and ends up falling from the cloud.

Em wise quackers, Rossini's aria serves as a brief illustration of Daffy Duck's “gifts” as a barber. Already in hare we go, it is used to rhythm the boarding of the crew of Christopher Columbus under the supervision of Bugs Bunny, creating a dynamic articulation between music and image. The most creative use of “Largo al factotum” is undoubtedly in Conductor Bugs Bunny, in which the partnership between Stalling and Chuck Jones manages to reach the dimension of a perfect marriage between musical rhythm and visual rhythm. The clash between Bugs Bunny, who represents popular music, and the tenor Giovanni Jones, jealous of his classical repertoire, goes far beyond a set of gags linked, as it involves two conceptions of culture. While the rabbit sings his popular repertoire in the woods, accompanying himself with a banjo, a harp and a tuba, in a nearby house the tenor Jones rehearses “Make way for the factotum”. Bugs Bunny's music interferes with rehearsal, prompting Jones to sing a verse of A rainy night in Rio (1947) in an operatic manner; dancing and chanting the words of the second song; the note of a rumba comes out of its mouth when the rabbit plays the tuba. On three occasions, the tenor, shocked and furious with the interference in the rehearsal, punishes the singer, who vows revenge.

As Daniel Goldmark writes in Tunes for 'toons: music and Hollywood cartoon, the clash between the tenor and the rabbit does not just stem from the fact that the former had his rehearsal interrupted three times by strange musical interference. The reason for his anger lies above all in having succumbed to a repertoire alien to high culture, wasting his voice on less refined music practiced by an “anti-aesthete”. Rossini's cavatina is also at the base of the beginning of the rabbit's revenge. Willing to humiliate the tenor, Bugs Bunny disrupts his concert: while he sings an aria from Lucia of Lammermoor, hammers on the roof of the room making it vibrate and interrupts the performance; when Jones goes back to present the Rossini excerpt, he sprays his throat with liquid alum, which causes his head to shrink and his voice to disappear.

If the clash between Bugs Bunny and Jones turns into a cultural war, in which the opera and its rituals are seen from a humorous perspective, on other occasions Rossini's aria lends itself to new mickeymousing exercises. Stalling's collaborator at Warner, Milt Franklyn, quickly uses a short snippet of the song in one froggy evening (1955) to underline a peculiarity of Michigan J. Frog, a frog found in a demolition: he knew how to sing, but he only showed himself to the worker who had rescued him from the box in which he was locked up. Produced by Walter Lantz, The barber of Seville (1944) is a shining example of synchronizing music and action. The protagonist, Woodpecker, appears in this film directed by Shamus Culhane with a new appearance designed by Emery Hawkins and Art Heinemann: a more agile body and attenuation of grotesque features. Musical director Darrell Calker, one of the greatest representatives of “mickeymousing”, manages to establish the same degree of rhythmic activity between the character's singing and his increasingly frantic and clearly lunatic actions.

Rossini's aria goes far beyond a comment on the action: it merges with the frenzy of the character who, carried away by the music, frightens the client in his care. Woodpecker's song is mechanically accelerated to match its voice and match the speed of the action. Rossini's aria is sung almost in its entirety and begins at the moment when Woodpecker is preparing the shaving foam, with which he will cover the head, face and shoes of the client, a civil construction worker of Italian origin. Totally delivered to the corner, the bird brandishes the razor dangerously; interrupts work to display his virtuosity; jumps gracefully as if she were a dancer; look for the hidden worker; multiplies to the sound of “Figaro! Figaro! Figaro”; does not let the “victim” get away and finally concludes his service with a self-praise (“Oh bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo: a te fortuna non mancherà”). The customer's exit is accompanied by "Sono il factotum della citta” and by the typical scream of the Woodpecker, which does not go well, because the man returns and throws him into the hall through the window.

Two Metro-Goldwin-Mayer animations – magic maestro (1952) and Cat upstairs, mouse downstairs (The cat above and the mouse below, 1964) – also use Rossini's aria. In the first, directed by Tex Avery and set to music by Scott Bradley, Butch Dog plays the Great Poochini (a play on Giacomo Puccini), who is rehearsing “Make way for the factotum” in the dressing room. He is interrupted by the job-seeking magician Mysto and angrily throws him out. The latter decides to take revenge and uses a magic wand to disturb the singer's performance. He takes the conductor's place and, while Poochini shows off in the aria he was rehearsing, he begins to make flowers, rabbits, pocket-sized handkerchiefs appear on stage. Always singing, the tenor goes through a series of transformations: ballerina, Indian, tennis player, prisoner, American football player, Chinese, country singer, child with balloon, Carmen Miranda, Bill Kenny and “Hoppy” Jones (both from Ink Spots)[9] and finally Hawaiian Warrior. When Poochini sees through the trick, he seizes the wand and subjects Mysto to the same treatment until the curtain reading “The end” falls on him.

The theme of cultural contamination, which had been at the heart of the first part of Conductor Bugs Bunny, covers the entire duration of magic maestro with the singer's frenetic transformism. If, in the short film directed by Jones, the rustic environment in which the rabbit lived formed a clear contrast with the elegance of the tenor's house, suggesting a counterpoint between nature and culture, in Avery's production all the action takes place in one of the temples of bourgeoisie, a concert hall. Philip Brody's idea that Bugs Bunny's singing "generates a musicological discourse that infects the refined lineage of the tenor's operatic arias" can be applied to magic maestro, in which the theme of contagion is the leitmotiv of the various actions. What distinguishes "Make way for the factotum” of traditional songs from the XNUMXth century, such as Oh my darling Clementine (country singer) and A-ticket A-tasket (girl with balloon), from Mom I want e Everything I have is yours (1933), performed by Kenny and the deep voice of the Ink Spots? All of them are part of the repertoire of mass culture, although opera lovers do not admit this fact.

The reluctance to accept a new cultural regime is symbolized in the film by a spectator's protest against continuous interference in Poochini's performance. His interventions, however, do nothing more than emphasize this interdependence. When she throws fruit on stage, the figure of Carmen Miranda materializes. When she dyes Poochini's face black with an inkjet, he transforms into Bill Kenny. When he launches the unfailing anvil of animations, “Hoppy” Jones appears… The humorous note that permeates the narrative becomes even more acute, if it is remembered that the figure of the conductor is a caricature of Scott Bradley, responsible for the contamination of the opera with a popular and mass repertoire. The musical director and Avery manage to create a rhythmic flow between music and filmed action, not allowing the “interferences” to break the rhythm of Poochini's performance, whose successive transformations add an ironic point of view on the universe of high culture.

Although “mickeymousing” began to be abandoned in the 1960s, it is still the central element of Cat upstairs, mouse downstairs, in which all the action revolves around Rossini's cavatina. Baritone Thomasino Catti-Cazzaza, played by Tom, begins his performance by singing the first two verses of the aria, annoying Jerry, who lives under the stage and is sleeping. A clash begins between the two, which leads the singer to leave the stage to recover. Upon returning, Tom picks up the aria from the beginning, jumps onstage and messes up the mouse's house. While singing the third verse, Jerry appears at the opening of the stage asking for silence and starting a new battle between the two, which unfolds to the sound of a virtuosic passage (“V'è la risorsa/poi del mestiere/colla donnnetta… col cavaliere”) and the best-known moment in the opera in which Figaro intones “All my chiedono, all my voices”. While Tom is concentrating on singing "Sono il factotum della citta”, Jerry lets go of one of the curtain weights and the cat jumps into the hole opened by the falling object. The show, however, does not stop. Dressed in costume, Jerry sings the final aria to a warm ovation.

The interaction between Chuck Jones and music director Eugene Poddany is responsible for the pantomime aspect that characterizes the tape. The well-known clashes between the cat and the mouse gain depth with the different tempos that the music imprints on the action, without thereby playing the role of illustration or commentary. On the contrary, it is thanks to music that the comic situations acquire an absurd character, transforming the pantomime into a satire of the opera world, ready to accept anything in the name of the spectacle.

The satire on the lyrical universe begins with the disproportionate limousine, whose top is crowned by a golden Cupid, in which the baritone arrives at the theater. Its interior is reminiscent of a living room in questionable taste, as it is decorated with an antique bust, a chandelier, a vase of flowers, a photo frame, a gigantic bottle and glass of champagne, a sofa on which Thomasino is lounging and a animal skin rug on the floor. The singer's characterization is an ironic compendium of poses and mannerisms, starting with the self-sufficient air he assumes in front of his fans. Onstage, after displaying a poignant attitude, the baritone first puts on an angry face, then becomes prim and successively smug, arrogant and enraptured. Jerry, on the contrary, appears as a happy elf, capable of transforming the end of the cavatina into a Broadway musical: he dances, flies with the broom thrown by Tom in the lower part of the stage floor and lands with the lightness of a ballerina, infusing a unusual grace in the play.

The Disney Studio does not remain immune to the call of Rossini's aria, using it in one of the segments of the feature film Master music! (make mine music), which opened in the United States on April 20, 1946. The segment “A Whale at the Opera” (“The whale who wanted to sing at the Met")[10] one of its highlights is the encounter between the sperm whale Willie, known for his singing skills, and businessman Tetti-Tatti who, inspired by the story of Jonah and the whale, believed that he had swallowed a singer. To show off his skills, Willie emerges from the waves singing “Make way for the factotum”; raises Tetti-Tatti's ship to the sound of “Figaro! Figaro!”; dive while chanting "One all the way back…”; and nothing to the rhythm of "Figaro su, Figaro giù”. When the section “Bravo, bravissimo” finally begins, he delights the ship's sailors, who applaud him and prevent his capture by Tetti-Tatti. During the exhibition, the narrator demonstrates that Willie is a “singing miracle”, as he was endowed with three uvulas and three vocal timbres (tenor, baritone and bass).

The childish joy with which the sperm whale sings excerpts from the Rossinian aria and the jokes it makes to convince the manager of its talent contrast with the serious air it assumes in the imaginary interlude. Great success in concert halls worldwide, Willie performs a piece that evokes the aria “Wear the jacket” of Pagliacci (1892), by Ruggero Leoncavallo[11], in addition to excerpts from Tristan and Isolde (1865), by Richard Wagner, and Mephistopheles (1868), by Arrigo Boito. Transformed into Mephistopheles, Tetti-Tatti determines the tragic end of the story: he harpoons Willie who disappears in the waters of the Arctic. Shortly afterwards, his voice is heard above, chanting “May Heaven Forgive Them” from the comic opera Martha (1847) by Friedrich von Flotow.

"Make way for the factotum” is the most used piece of classical music in animated films, but another excerpt from Rossini's opera serves as the soundtrack to two cartoons that premiered in 1948 and 1950. Directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, scalded cat (kitty foiled)[12] paces the clashes between Tom and Jerry with the opening[13] de The Barber of Seville, Here's to the girls (1945) my blue sky (1926) and auld lang syne (1907), known in Brazil as the farewell waltz. Rossini's music, with which music director Scott Bradley opens the tape, pauses at times, but picks up an increasingly fast pace in the dramatic sequence in which Tom tries to run Jerry over with a toy train. As the action gets more excited, the music builds to a crescendo to match the cat's mood: focused in the foreground, he looks crazed. The association between frenzy of action and including of the song culminates at the end of the sequence, when the feline falls into the hole opened by the bowling ball thrown by Jerry's canary friend.

The second animation, The Seville Rabbit (Rabbit of Seville), takes place on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, in which Bugs Bunny and Elmer Man break out during a chase. Stalling almost entirely maintains the basic structure of the Rossinian piece, suppressing some repetitive passages and adopting a faster tempo to adapt it to the duration of the cartoon directed by Chuck Jones. Richard Freedman believes that the partnership between Stalling and Jones reached its peak on this tape, in which Rossini's music serves as the scaffolding for an “unforgettable dispute”. The musical ideas – lyrical melodies, sudden orchestral syncopations, the Rossinian crescendo – are translated into “cutting scissors, flying vegetables, rolling barber chairs and a burlesque gun race”.

The juxtaposition of familiar music and familiar characters provides “sublime moments of comic pantomime,” one of which is a romp with The Marriage of Figaro (1786) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If the film reveals the comic possibilities of Rossini's play, one cannot forget that Jones conceives "an opera within an opera"[14], directly related to the eternal clash between Elmer and Bugs Bunny. Goldmark is not afraid to state that if the music guides the action, there is no doubt, however, that the sequence of gags refers more to slapstick comedy than to opera itself.

Rossini's music very effectively underlines the comic situations of the plot and Bugs Bunny's transformism – barber, odalisque, snake charmer –, which subjects Elmer to all kinds of treatments, often with vexatious results. The most hilarious moment is, without a doubt, the marriage between Elmer and Bugs Bunny, to the sound of Wedding March (1842) by Felix Mendelssohn. Dressed as a bride, Elmer Hortelino finally ends up falling into a large ornate cake with the words The Marriage of Figaro. Bugs Bunny, meanwhile, looks at the camera, smiles, breaks the fourth wall and exclaims "Next", while eating a carrot.

Freedman does not completely disagree with the hypothesis suggested by Goldmark, when he writes that the sounds of these “silly” drawings can lead to admiration for artistic capacity and erudition, sometimes inspired by madness. In addition, the critic points out that the use of classical music in the soundtracks of these films has an educational function: it can serve as an entry point into the “distant musical and timbric worlds” for a young audience that, otherwise, would not have contact with this repertoire. He is joined in this by Hilary Poriss, for whom The Seville Rabbit it can be considered “the most far-reaching and unparalleled introduction of this music outside the opera house”, aimed not only at children's audiences, but at adults as well.

Evidently, this educational function assumes its own tones, as the musical directors of the animation tapes do not show any reverence for the pieces they work with, which generally come from an already known repertoire. If, on the one hand, they trust the historical significance of the selected songs, on the other hand, they don't hesitate to bend them to the production's designs. They reduce its duration, print a faster rhythm to certain passages, conceive true caricatures, propose new orchestrations, because what matters in fact is to situate a scene, characterize a character and a situation, suggest a state of mind. Leonard Maltin is very emphatic about this, when he recalls how music forms the backbone of animation. Its role is to drive and comment on the actions, highlight the comedy, enhance the atmosphere, and speed up the pursuits.

Using the work of Stalling and Bradley as a guiding principle, Daniel Goldmark and Yuval Taylor write that they did not limit themselves to musically narrating the episodes they orchestrated: they added speed to falls, pain to the anvils in the head, love, passion and rhythm to each sequence of dance that passed by their work tables. In this way, they achieved something more than adding life to their creations: they made cartoons “larger than life”. For Michael Barrier, Stalling's innovation must be sought in the way he linked together excerpts from different melodies, often establishing links between them. Thanks to “bridges” of original material, the composer achieved original results, even when returning to a melody or dwelling on it for comic effect.

Freedman, in turn, expands the meaning of this “energetic recycling” of well-known operatic pieces by inserting them in a long tradition of parodies written for the popular stage in the XNUMXth century, which included satires of Wagner and Giacomo Meyerbeer and allusions to Christoph Gluck, in the case of Jacques Offenbach. Each national theater seems to have chosen to "empty the strained seriousness of its lofty art forms, not infrequently exaggerating its salient features and juxtaposing them with trivial forms". This “audacious mix of languages ​​and styles” doesn't just look to the past.

It is related to the experiences of the XNUMXth century musical avant-garde, which used resources such as collage and citation, as shown by the examples of Erik Satie, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel, Luciano Berio, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Charles Ives and George Rocheberg. Inserted in this context, “mickeymousing” must be seen as a specific language that, far from trivializing classical music by associating it with an action that unfolds on the screen, gives it a new vitality and a new possibility of listening outside the framework. consecrated, made of dissonances and discontinuities, in tune with the sensibility of the XNUMXth century.

* Annateresa Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Visual Arts at ECA-USP. Author, among other books, of Reality and fiction in Latin American photography (UFRGS Publisher).

 

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Notes


[1] Stalling denies that he inserted a snippet of Grieg, but David Smith of the Disney Archive claims that the studio obtained permission to use the music in the short film.

[2] Andrade is referring to Felix the Cat, created by Otto Messmer for Pat Sullivan's studio (1919). He took a while to adhere to the new type of cinema and, at first, hired Jacques Kopfstein to add a soundtrack to fifteen silent drawings. The synchronization is not always perfect, and there may be a small gap between the action and the sound effect. Between 1929 and 1930, the Sullivan Studio made twelve films with original sound. As the cinemas did not disclose the titles of the complements, it is not possible to determine which films were seen by Andrade.

[3] Stalling was also responsible for the soundtracks for Summer (1930) and Autumn (1930), but data on the music used was not found.

[4] The list of cartoons that use the aria was found in “Largo al factotum”. About one of the titles listed – the talking dog –, it was only possible to ascertain that the animation, directed by Alex Lovy, dates from 1956.

[5] The title is a play on the name of the capital of Japan (Tokyo in English) and the term “joke” (mocking), since its main target is the Japanese.

[6] The title is a play on words with “uproar” (hustle) and “opera”.

[7] In May 1967, one of the series' episodes The Inspector (1965-1969), produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, picks up the noisy cat plot (Le quiet squad). Inspired by the figure of Jacques Clouseau, from The pink Panther (the pink panther), directed by Blake Edwards (1963), the inspector tries to prevent the stressed commissioner from being disturbed by any noise. However, a cat jeopardizes the design: meow; plays La Marseillaise and dances on top of the roof to celebrate the 14th of July; tries to light fireworks; starts singing on top of the fence, but is shot by the inspector. His death does not resolve the issue, as the cat's nine lives sing a song.

[8] The motif of the specters of nine lives had been used in Dinner time, quite creatively. After falling from the rope cut by the woodpecker, the cat sees its lives ascend. He grabs the last one and hurries back up.

[9] The Ink Spots were a jazz vocal group active from 1934 to 1954. Bill Kenny was their first tenor from 1936.

[10] In 1954, the segment is launched separately, under the title of Willie the Operatic Whale.

[11] It is said that Disney was unable to acquire the rights to the aria, leading Nelson Eddy, responsible for the various timbres of the segment (soprano, tenor, baritone and bass), to write a piece that evoked it, including the famous hiccups.

[12] The literal translation of “foiled” would be “defeated”, but the title is a parody of the feature film Kitty Foyle (1940), directed by Sam Wood.

[13] The overture had already been used by the composer in two previous operas: Aureliano in Palmyra (1813) and Elizabeth, Queen of England (1815)

[14] The idea of ​​an “opera within an opera” is reinforced by the poster announcing the performance of The Barber of Seville. The Italianized names of three performers appear on it: Eduardo Selzeri (producer Edward Selzer), Michele Maltese (storyline author Michael Maltese) and Carlo Jonzi (director Chuck Jones).

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