Long waited 4th season for 'The Crown' is finally arrived and it’s regarded as the best one so far by the majority of the reviews. The series didn't have an interesting music usage so far, but the minute 2nd episode featured an opera scene, it got our attention :)
In the episode ‘The Balmoral Test’, Windsors happily argue around the table about whose name will be under of the deer’s head when it will be hunted and we hear the first notes of an aria. In that moment, we don’t know the source of the music yet. The opening line from La Traviata (Verdi)’s aria ‘E strano’ is being sang by a soprano while the camera focuses on the other pray displayed on the wall proudly while the family is laughing and joking out of focus. Seconds later, we see the singer from behind and understand that it is not a background music, it is diagetic and we’re actually listening the piece along with Diana, Charles and Diana’s grandmother.
Alfredo just confessed his love for Violetta, a wealthy courtesan who lives for joy and cannot afford to fall in love. However, his words strangely awake something in Violetta where she’s questioning her way of life for the first time with this aria. We are facing the sincere moment Violetta was honest with herself just before she turns to reality in the upcoming aria. After a brief moment -the part we hear in the episode, she comes to her senses and choose joy over love in the wonderful aria ‘Sempre Libera’. In the end, she let herself fall in love with Alfredo, leave her current life. But Alfredo’s father convince her to leave Alfredo. She sacrifices her love but Alfredo mistakenly blames her. He understands the truth at the death bad of Violetta who suffers from tuberculosis. She dies just when she unites with him. Here is the wonderful production analysis of the opera, and here is Pretty Woman perfectly referencing the piece :)
Since ‘E strano’ is the heroine’s aria, my first reaction is to analyse this through Diana. Yes, the lyrics can make sense, if self-contained, at the common point of unhappy endings. But now, I wonder if it’s Charles who questions it. We know he has doubts and love somebody else at that point. We are not sure if he’s started to feel something for Diana or just doing what he’s forced to do. The frame captures Charles’s gazing of Diana; maybe he’s thinking to give her a chance. He’s strangely questioning the possibility..
How strange it is … how strange!
Those words are carved upon my heart!
Would a true love bring me misfortune?
What do you think, o my troubled spirit?
No man before kindled a flame like this.
Oh, joy …
I never knew …
To love and to be loved!
Can I disdain this
For a life of sterile pleasure?
Just as this aria leads to ‘dismissal of love’ aria, Charles also dismiss this feeling just after the opera. As they leave the opera, Diana says ‘I adore Verdi, he’s such a romantic’. Charles, unimpressed, respond that ‘It would be dismissal to focus on romanticism of Verdi. His music played a key role in the Italian unification, too’. Charles is absolutely right and I would be saying that too, definitely :) But Diana is not wrong by knowing Verdi with his romanticism. His most popular works; La Traviata, Rigoletto, Il Travatore; are romantic. Diana’ love for that is completely okay and this is the case for majority of the opera audience. However, Charles is looking for someone who’s in the same intellectuality as he is and this is not Diana. Therefore, Charles upcoming aria is joy, not duty: Camilla over Diana.
Just a glimpse into Charles’s point of Verdi; he was certainly influential figure on politics. Along with other political pieces, he’s signature politics reference lies in the ‘Nabucco'. The aria ‘Va, pensiero’ has seen as a metaphor for Italy’s situation when the aria the recalls the story of Jews who lost their home. There was an immediate reaction to the aria at the premiere. Although it was forbidden to repeat the arias, they had to repeat it to silence the audience. Still today, ‘Va, pensiero’ performed twice in every production as a tradition. Verdi had such a major role that there was a popular saying Viva Verdi (long live Verdi) with the sub-meaning of “Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re d’Italia” (Long Live Victor Emmanuel King of Italy’, which referred to Victor Emmanuel II, king of Italy since 1861). You can see the reference in La Forza del Destino by Paris Opera House in here.
At the end of the episode, we hear from La Traviata once again. Charles loses all hope of his dismissal of Diana when Anne also suggest that he should marry her. When Anne says ‘It should be written in the stars’, we hear the beginning of Act 1 Prelude. The story is now started; Charles has no escape, the opera begins inspire of the ending Charles knew from the beginning. As the overture continues, we see first the car approaching to house in the Scotland. Than we see the Thatcher’s photograph with the new cabinet which corresponds to the ‘Amami Alfredo’ part -where Violetto says goodbye to Alfredo after being forced to leave him- of the overture which I can see no connection at all. Later, we see the deer’s head getting its place at the wall and final shot is Diana followed by the press. It is a wonderful tune, very impressive but the connection is not clear hear. We can say it’s the beginning of journey for Diana and Thatcher. However, there is not one but two cuts to the overture and both of them on the Diana scene. As if they are just wanted to use their favourite parts of the overture.. It’s clear for me that it has no significant purpose and the music simple didn’t fit to the scene’s length, and they just choose their favourite parts of the overture in the price of leaping twice.
It is not the best example; it could have been much more amusing references. But it’s always a pleasure to see a popular series made people search for the wonderful tune they hear at the episode. If it made you one step closer to see and appreciate La Traviata, it is a major achievement.