You Know More Than You Think

by Erin Lambroza

I have noticed multiple times throughout this semester that I already knew tunes from various arias, symphonies, and other works that Professor Dolan has assigned to us, even when I had never heard their titles before. This observation has held particularly true for the past two lectures – I recognized the tune of “La Donna è Mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto and I also was familiar with “Ride of the Valkyries” from Wagner’s Die Walküre. I found it quite interesting that these widespread, famous tunes had been integrated enough into modern day popular culture for me to fully remember them but have no idea what they were called.

I decided to look into this topic more, and I found an article from Yahoo Entertainment that lists 20 operas with popular tunes that people generally recognize, without knowing the title of the piece or even the name of the opera that they come from. There were, probably non-coincidentally, multiple works from operas that we’ve listened to before in class! Not only are “La Donna è Mobile” and “Ride of the Valkyries” listed, but so is “Va pensiero” from Nabucco and multiple arias from The Barber of Seville.

I went through the YouTube links that were listed, and I found that I could aurally recognize around half of the entries, but I could not put a name to the ones that I had not listened to for class! I cannot recall where I’ve heard these tunes from before Music 30; some may have been featured in popular current songs, some may have just been playing at the background in a restaurant, and maybe I’ve heard some others on the radio or TV.

Click on the following link to test yourself and see how many famous opera tunes you’ve heard before:

How many did you recognize? Do you think that you’ve heard them sampled in other music, or what might other possible sources of these tunes have been?