Kill the Wabbit!: How the 1957 Bugs Bunny Cartoon, “What’s Opera, Doc?,” Inspired Today’s Opera Singers to First Get Into Opera

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Strange Day When Bugs Bun­ny Saved the Life of Mel Blanc

The Evo­lu­tion of Chuck Jones, the Artist Behind Bugs Bun­ny, Daffy Duck & Oth­er Looney Tunes Leg­ends: A Video Essay

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

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