It comes as no surprise that many American children’s first, and often only exposure to opera comes compliments of Bugs Bunny. One of the rascally rabbit’s most enduring turns is as Brünnhilde opposite Elmer Fudd’s Siegfried in “What’s Opera, Doc?,” a 1957 cartoon spoofing Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Other well known names, including Marilyn Horne and Placido Domingo have assayed these parts over the years, but thanks to the miracle of syndication, Bugs and Elmer are the ones who truly own them, as a celebrated part of their repertoire for six decades and counting.
The law of averages dictates that a percentage—a very small percentage—of their billions of child viewers would grow up to become opera professionals.
The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed that for several prominent Wagnerians, including the executive director of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, “What’s Opera, Doc?” and an earlier work, 1949’s “Rabbit of Seville,” had a profound impact.
And no disrespect to director Francis Ford Coppola, who deployed Ride of the Valkyries so memorably in Apocalypse Now, but no one will ever use it to greater effect than the cartoon’s writer, Michael Maltese, author of the immortal lyrics:
Kiww the wabbit! Kiww the wabbit!
It’s a phrase even the least opera-inclined child can remember and sing, well into adulthood.
Read the complete Wall Street Journal article here.