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Name that tune

Finding cultural references of Choral Union's opera choruses

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Published: April 25, 2013
Choral Union performing on stage

Choral Union performs many famous opera choruses at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25. Photo by Shane Epping.

Choral Union, the University Singers and the Columbia Civic Orchestra perform Opera Choruses at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at Jesse Hall. While the term “opera” can conjure some humdrum associations for those unfamiliar with the medium, it's nearly impossible to not recognize and enjoy many of the pieces being performed.

We've collected some popular-culture references to Thursday night's musical selections, so when you start humming along with a familiar tune, you'll know where you've previously heard it.

  • Bizet's “March of the Toreadors” and “Habañera” from Carmen. Drawn from one of the most famous operas ever written, the parodies and uses of songs in Bizet's masterpiece are limitless. You may have seen Beyonce, the Muppets, Elmo and an orange on Sesame Street — or a recent Bertoli commercial featuring "Habañera." Gilligan's Island, Sesame Streeet and countless TV commercials also have taken on the famous march. Themes from Carmen were also used in a Tom & Jerry episode, a full Animaniacs segment, an episode of Hey Arnold! and Olympian Evan Plushenko's silver-medal winning routine in 2002.
  • Verdi's “Anvil Chorus” from Il Travatore. Tiny Toons picked up right where Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang left off by continuing to expose young viewers to opera. (Plucky Duck probably wishes otherwise after their rendition of the “Anvil Chorus.”)
  • Verdi's “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Nabucco. Though it doesn't have the same pop-culture relevance as the previously listed pieces, the work had great significance during World War II. Italians at the time longed to be reunited with Lombardy (occupied by Austria) and related to their homeland composer's song of a people demanding freedom. The chorus became an underground national hymn for those seeking national unity, and the composer's name was spelled out "V.E.R.D.I." which stood for "Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy," a reference to the native dynasty of the country.
  • Wagner's “Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin. If you've ever been to a wedding, you know this piece many refer to as "Here Comes the Bride." What you likely don't know is how it fits in with Wagner's full opera. In Lohengrin, the piece is performed after Elsa and Lohengrin have been married while the bridal party accompanies Elsa to her bridal chamber. It immediately precedes the murder of several wedding guests. Not the most successful event or happy marriage.

In addition to those pieces, the concert includes:

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Last updated: May 14, 2013