What's Opera, Doc? is an absolute cartoon classic. I remember it from my childhood days, and it is the reason I ever got to know Wagner at all. Thanks to Elmer Fudd, I'll always think of "Ride of the Valkyries" as the "kill the wabbit" song.
Anyway, on Thursday I bought a 2-DVD set of classic Loony Tunes shorts. It's not something I would normally buy, but I had an idea. An idea that I tried today, with awesome results.
I started my lesson off by making the kids listen to a few minutes of "Ride of the Valkyries," explaining that it is from a very old, very long opera. They immediately got that "Oh, here she goes with the dead white guy music again" look on their faces, but they shut up and listened.
But eyes lit up when the music started. "Hey, I've heard this...in some movie!" I just smiled my Mona Lisa smile and replied, "Or maybe...in a cartoon?"
When it was finished, I read a short blurb about the basic plot of The Ring of the Nibelung (the long ole opera that "Ride of the Valkyries" comes from).
"Where have you seen this story before?"
"Lord of the Rings!"
"Mmhmm..." See, my kidlets, everything old is new again.
By now, they were showing a little more interest in this opera stuff. I changed gears a little bit, asking if they knew what the word "parody" means. No one did, so I wrote the definition on the board and explained it. We talked about parodies they know of--Scary Movie, Dance Flick, Epic Movie, and others like those. They started getting it--a parody is making a spoof or farce out of an already-exsisting book, movie or piece of music.
I pulled out my big surprise finale. "We're going to watch a parody of the music we just heard." I turned on the DVD player and watched their faces light up as the familiar Warner Brothers logo popped up on the screen.
And I showed "What's Opera, Doc?" to my very happy students. When it was done, we talked about ways the short parodied the opera, music, and even ballet.
It was awesome.