O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini is used in the Merchant Ivory 1985 production of Room with a View starring Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands as the two lovers Lucy and George. It is sung in the film soundtrack by Kiri te Kanawa. It is used at the beginning of the film in the title credits and when Lucy and George first see each other. It is also used at the end when they are married and back in Florence again. Below I will discuss why I think it was used in this production and what it could mean.
In this aria Lauretta is pleading with her father Gianni Schicchi to read her lovers uncle’s will so he can have enough money for them to get married. She then threatens that if he does not do this that she will drown herself in the Arno. Now I generally think this song is used in the film because like Lauretta and her lover Rinuccio Lucy and George are held back by class but not by money. In Room with a View George is not poor but is lower middle class, from a socialist background and behaves unconventionally. This is in that he is not emotionally restrained and believes in equality between men and women and therefore is not seen as appropriate husband material for Lucy.
Instead Lucy’s snooty, culture obsessed and wealthy fiancé Cecil is seen as more suitable for Lucy even though he is a pompous bore. However George adores her and she clearly feels the same way even though she denies her feelings for him for most of the film. I also think this song is used as both the opera and film are set in Florence.
I think the music is placed at the beginning when she first sees George to show that they will be lovers. However with the lyrics meaning this shows how there will be obstacles to their union. Also perhaps that they will have to fight to be together like Lauretta and Rinuccio. I think the use of the aria at the end of the film creates a bittersweet feeling. It shows Lucy and George happy together. In contrast her cousin Charlotte who helped them get together is alone in bed reading a letter from Lucy. Then she turns out her light. Therefore thus this could show how Charlotte threw away love which Lucy almost did because of class and of society’s expectations. This connecting to Lauretta threatening to throw herself into the Arno. However unlike Lucy and Lauretta she will always be alone and regretting her past but happy with her actions towards George and Lucy. This is because she originally opposed their relationship but saw Lucy behaving like she did and did not want the same thing to happen to her.
In the 2007 ITV adaptation of Northanger Abbey the song Der Hölle Rache or the Queen of the Night’s Aria is used which is from the opera the Magic Flute by Mozart. Now in the scene the novel’s protagonist Catherine Moorland(Felicity Jones) is at the opera watching the Magic Flute with some friends. They are watching the moment were the Queen of the Night sings the above song. Catherine’s friends are the Allens, Isabella Thorpe(Carey Mulligan), Catherine’s brother James and John(William Beck) Isabella’s brother. Catherine looks hopefully across Henry Tilney (J.J Field) who is her main love interest in the story and his sister Eleanor but they both look at her coldly. Meanwhile John who desires Catherine for himself sees her looking at them and comments that Eleanor is attractive but Catherine is better looking. Catherine ignores him as she is more interested in the Tilneys. Now Henry looks at her coldly as Catherine was meant to go out walking with him and Eleanor. However John and Isabella manipulated her into coming on a carriage ride with them instead.
Now in the Magic Flute the Queen of the Night is angrily telling her daughter Pamina that if she does not kill her rival Sarastro that will she disown her. The Queen of the Night has originally been set up as a good character who manipulates Pamina’s lover Tamino into believing she is good and that Sarastro is evil. Now as the opera goes on this is revealed to be the opposite. Pamina in this scene who sees Sarastro as a father figure and does not want to kill him but also does not want to lose her mother. Therefore she does not know what to do. Below I will suggest what the use of this song could mean in this adaptation.
Firstly I think it could symbolise people appearing to be good on the surface but being the opposite underneath. For example Isabella, John, and Henry’s father General Tilney appear to like Catherine. Nonetheless they all have ulterior motives. Therefore this could foreshadow how Catherine has been deceived by appearances and will realise that these 3 characters are not what they appear to be.
It may also link here to the theme of conflicted parent and child relationships as in this scene in the Magic Flute it too deals with this. Eleanor and Henry in Northanger Abbey have a rocky relationship with their father. This is as they both oppose him in their choices of spouses. He wants them to marry for money. However Eleanor and Henry are only interested in marrying a potential spouse for love.
Finally the song could symbolise the love triangle that has developed. Catherine has to choose between Henry the nice guy and John the bad boy. The creepiness in the song could show the tension that has built up between the three of them as both men are rivals for her affection. Now at the point in this production Catherine I would say has not shown a strong preference for either man. Perhaps slightly more for Henry as she has a sexual fantasy about him while she is in the bath. I suppose she has a sexual fantasy about John too as there is a scene where her and Isabella are in their underclothes discussing him. Here Isabella teases her about him and she appears to blush at the mention of him. Later she falls in love with Henry after spending time at Northanger Abbey. Also after getting to know what John is really like.
In the Film Princess Diaries 2: the Royal Engagement Anna Netrebko sings the end of Sempre Libera from La Traviata. This is while Anne Hathaway as Princess Mia, Julie Andrews as her grandmother Queen Clarisse along with other nobles watch her. Then after she has finished singing Julie Andrews introduces her as the “rising star Anna Netrebko” and Anne Hathaway gives her an award. In the opera La Traviata Sempre Libera is sung by the courtesan Violetta.
Violetta in La Traviata has been told by a young man called Alfredo that he loves her. She sings nonetheless that as a courtesan she must not feel love and has never known love. She also thinks that as a courtesan that it is her duty to flit from pleasure to pleasure and stay with her protector Baron Dupholde who she does not love. Meanwhile she is trying to fight her growing feelings for Alfredo. Then Alfredo sings a short phrase where he praises love which confuses Violetta even more. Since this is near the end of Act 1 it is ambiguous whether she will choose Alfredo or not.
Now in Princess Diaries 2 Mia has to marry for duty and not love but she also has to do this because she wants to be Queen. For the sake of duty she has become engaged to a man she does not love even though she already has feelings for someone else. This song could highlight how she feels torn between love and duty much like Violetta. However she also feels that it is her duty as a princess to marry without love although she does not want that. Or that as she is only 21, she is not yet ready to get married. This scene is also really an excuse to show Anna Netrebko who was at the time a rising opera star as Julie Andrews states. Only 2 years before this film Netrebko had made her Met Debut in War and Peace as Natasha.
This is my first in a series of posts about opera music in Films and TV. In the BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie sings the last verse in English of Voi Che Sapete from the Marriage of Figaro while Darcy played by Colin Firth looks on admiringly. Later the tune is used to show him thinking of her after she has left Pemberley. The song in the opera is sung by Cherubino who is the Count Almaviva’s page and is lusting after the Count’s wife. Cherubino is also played by a woman who dresses as a man in what is called a trouser role. Cherubino sings this song to the Countess Almaviva and her maid Susanna who accompanies Cherubino on the guitar. Cherubino asks the two women about love although he seems rather more in love with love itself than any woman.
In Pride and Prejudice Darcy later recalls Lizzie looking back at him lovingly to while Voi Che Sapete plays again. I think this song is used to show Lizzie’s growing feelings for him and also how perhaps she is like a love-struck boy too. This in that she has never felt this way before. Also it could be used to show how Darcy although already in love with her is feeling a maturity and sincerity in his feelings. Not like he did in the insulting proposal scene. Or he realises that she has begun to return his feelings.
This song is also used because it is appropriate for the time period and Mozart was very popular at the time. Other bits of the Marriage of Figaro are used in this production such as the wedding march from it for the Netherfield Ball. I do not think that piece has much meaning apart from the time period really.