Music of Moonstruck
The Full Moon and a Night at the Opera
Moonstruck features many different types of music. Pop music like That’s Amore from Dean Martin and It Must be Him from Vikki Carr, music from Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme and the score from film composer Dick Hyman. Moonstruck is a modern film but in many aspects it is like an opera. It deals with an ever- present theme in most operas, yearning and consuming love. If life is like an opera, then film is the perfect medium to portray that medium. And after all the film is about an Italian family. Who better to sing opera than Italians right? From the film documentary about the music, Hyman and director Norman Jewison emphasize that every character in Moonstruck is a different part of an opera and has a different aria to sing. The compilation of opera, pop music, and the score create the new basis for a modern day opera.
The screenwriter, John Patrick Shanley wrote the screenplay bearing in mind that life is often like an opera. From this the audience gathers that Loretta Castorini is the soprano, Ronny Camererri the tenor, Johnny Camererri the baritone, Cosmo Castorini the bass, Rose Castorini the contralto, and Grandpa Castorini the Greek chorus. Though the characters are not singing themselves there are songs that become personal leitmotifs. Each song attaches itself to a character or couple and becomes that character’s unsung song.
Dean Martin’s song ‘That’s Amore’ opens and closes the film as the quintessential Italian-American family and song. The first line also suits the film itself, ‘when the moon hits your eye…that’s amore’ which foreshadows what happens the night of the full moon in New York City between all the couples within the film: Ronny and Loretta, Cosmo and Rose, Uncle Raymond and Aunt Rita, and Grandpa and his dogs. Who would want to walk that many dogs in New York City. (Major pooper scooper problems!).
When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Like a gay tarantella
When the stars make you drool
Joost-a like pasta fazool
When you dance down the street
With a cloud at your feet, you're in love
When you walk in a dream
But you know you're not dreamin', signore
'Scusami, but you see
Back in old Napoli, that's amore
Vikki Carr It Must be Him
Love in N.Y.
That’s Amore also becomes theme song for New York City, especially with the opening location shots of New York City with a full moon shining down. That’s Amore narrates the opening scene by localizing the audience in New York, hints at the ethnicity of Italian- American, but also at the lightheartedness of Moonstruck.
As That’s Amore signifies New York City and the Italian American family, It Must be Him by Vikki Carr is the 'leitmotif' for Cosmo and Rose Castorini. Carr’s big hit song in 1967 reflects a sense of longing for youthful yearnings. Cosmo is going through a mid- life crisis thinking that he’s an old man about to die, which suits the last line of the verses, ‘and then I die.’ Vikki Carr’s voice is very powerful and suits an Italian- American family who are known for possessing powerful and loud voices. (Trust me on this for those of you who don't have Italian Families.) It Must be Him also suits Cosmo because the song it sung by a woman. Due to Cosmo’s fear of death, he’s having an affair trying to regain his youth by ‘playing the field.’ It Must be Him also suits Rose because she is trying to find ways to reach her husband and understand what's bothering him. Rose also has a chance encounter with a gentleman at a restaurant, but she rejects his attempts at flirtation, staying true to her husband Cosmo knowing that ‘It must be Him’.
Opera Stars Netrebko & Villazon
Arias and Amore
Arias from Puccini’s opera La Boheme, are used much more so for the two main protagonists Ronny and Loretta. Together two different arias signify their relationship: O Soave Fanciulla and Donde Lieta Usci. Both are equally passionate and yearning. O soave fanciulla signifies that the only thing in Ronny and Loretta's world at this moment is each other. Love overpowers all other emotions and neither Ronny nor Loretta let anything stand in the way. The aria is played twice in the film. Ronny and Loretta have only met that afternoon, but they are immediately attracted to each other. All of a sudden Ronny pushes the table over, grabs Loretta and passionately kisses her. They proceed to make love while the aria plays in the background signifying again that the film is mirroring an opera by highlighting when the lovers come together.
In the opera La Boheme the two main protagonists, Rodolfo and Mimi, sing O soave fanciulla, as they become acquainted and quickly Rodolfo knows that he’s in love with Mimi. The aria reflects their new- found love.
Oh! sweet little lady! Oh, sweetest vision,
with moonlight bathing your pretty face!
The dream that I see in you is the dream I'll always dream!
(Oh, you rule alone, Love!)
Deep in my soul trembles the deepest of passions, etc.
Our kisses shudder with love!
(How gently now his words of praise make their way
into my heart...You rule alone, oh love!)
No, I beg you! You're mine now! Your friends are still waiting.
So soon must I leave you? I would like...I can't say it...
Speak! What if I went along? What? Mimi!
How sweet instead to stay behind here. It's freezing outside.
I'd be right beside you! What about later? Who knows, sir?
Take my arm, my dear young lady...As you say, my dear sir...
Do you love me, say! I certainly do.
O soave fanciulla is heard again when Loretta is walking back home after her night at the opera with Ronny. While Loretta walks down the street carelessly kicking a soda can signifying her carefree mood, the aria plays diegetically. Loretta’s movements match the song so well, that it seems like Loretta is singing the aria herself, every movement signifying that she's in love. While opera is not known to always have perfect moments Ronny and Loretta’s other aria represents the moments of their relationship when other forces are infringing on them.
Donde lieta uscì, acts as the troubled love aria. In La Boheme, donde lieta usci is Mimi’s aria when she tries to leave Rodolfo due to her consumption. Mimi wants to leave Rodolfo so he can have a happy life, without watching her die. Mimi and Rodolfo plan to part but their love for each other is too strong. A brief snippet of the aria is played during the first shot of Ronny’s apartment letting the audience know that Ronny likes opera and then on a deeper level signifying how lonely Ronny and Loretta are inside and yearning for true love. Like in La Boheme, this song represents another facet of Ronny and Loretta’s relationship where they let other factors into their relationship. Mimi allows her consumption to act as a reason for separation between she and Rodolfo. Loretta may love and yearn for Ronny; she still feels a responsibility to Johnny and promises herself and Ronny that after this evening at the opera they are not to see each other again mirroring when Mimi says she and Rodolfo must part ways. Donde lieta usci is the only scene of La Boheme shown to the audience, because the aria represents Loretta’s actions to push Ronny out of her life even though he is her true love. The scene is ultimately the most powerful while Loretta is silently crying, Ronny kisses her hand and they look at each other both trying to enjoy their ‘last moments’ together. It's a heartbreakingly beautiful song that will make you cry wishing love is strong enough to survive anything.
Whence happy leaving
To your cry of love,
Returns alone Mimi
To solitary nest.
Returns another time
To weave together false flowers.
Goodbye, without resentment.
The little things gather
That I have left scattered about
In my drawer
Are enclosed that gold band
And a book of prayers.
Wrap everything much in a smock
And I will send the concierge...
Pay attention, on the pillow
There is a pink bonnet
If you want, keep a memory of love!
Goodbye, without resentment.
One of Pavarotti's Best
Ronny’s passionate speech to Loretta is also similar to Rodolfo’s aria in La Boheme. Che gelida manina represents a man urging the woman he loves to love him back. On screen Ronny tells Loretta that he loves her, but not in a typical way because in a way he’s breaking all her illusions of love. While Ronnie raises his, the aria functions anempathetically, but also making Ronny’s angst another form of desperate passion, because this scene is meant to be a tender moment. The aria also suits Ronny, because the aria is sung by Rodolfo; portraying the male point of view. The lyrics match the scene as Ronny and Loretta are out in the cold and Ronny reaches his hand out to Loretta, while the moon above shines down on the lovers. Their actions mirror the lyrics, from the hand holding to Ronny’s speech of accepting the love they have for each other and the moon above them.
What a frozen little hand,
let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of looking?
We won't find it in the dark.
it’s a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
As the moon plays a character in Moonstruck, its theme is Quando m’en vo also from La Boheme. Dick Hyman arranges the well-known aria, thus portraying a new side to the modern opera. The moon plays a powerful role in the film looking over New York City, like the force pushing lovers together. The lyrics of Quando m’en vo suit the full moon describing how ‘people stop and stare at me’ and ‘the sly yearning which escapes from their eyes.’ This scene has all the different couples looking up at the moon giving the scene an other- worldly element.
When I go along watching over all the couples. When I walk, When I walk alone in the street, People stop and stare at me And everyone looks at my beauty, Looks at me, From head to foot...And then I relish the sly yearning, which escapes from their eyes and which is able to perceive my most hidden beauties. Thus the scent of desire is all around me, and it makes me happy, makes me happy! And you who know, who remember and yearn you shrink from me? I know it very well: you do not want to express your anguish, I know so well that you do not want to express it but you feel as if you are dying!
Moonstruck successfully blends different types of music that together produce a modern day opera. Using variety of songs like ‘It must be Him’ and Donde lieta usci it shows how versatile music can be and that they fit together given the right circumstances. A modern opera does not need people singing as long as the prerecorded song suits whatever that character feels or is motivated by. All the music together creates a little world in New York City where an opera setting is real and people are characters in the opera singing their own personal aria. Just as we all have our own song to sing...
Full Opera Scene in Moonstruck
More by this Author
St. Andrew's Cross Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to visit Scotland knows why it is a gem. There is no one thing to love...there are a million things to love! So first and foremost we must pay tribute to...
In recent years fervor has arisen among archaeologists from Ireland and Great Britain on how to define ‘Celticity’ in the 21st century. Previous conclusions about ‘Celticity’ in the 19th and 20th...
Andrew Jackson's term as president (1829-1837) began a new era in American politics. For the first time in the United States history a man born in humble circumstances was now President. Politicians in the previous...