Over Thanksgiving break, I was extremely fortunate to be invited by a friend to the Metropolitan Opera. The production was Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), his most popular opera, which has many recognizable tunes. Besides the Viking lady with the horns and the long blonde braids, Figaro, the barber himself, is to me the most recognizable character in any opera. The Barber of Seville, however, was about Count Almaviva’s courtship of Rosina with the help of Figaro. Not only was it a comedy, but it was in Italian. I loved it.
In order to keep the memory of the show fresh in my mind, when I got home I did what any college student would do when she comes home from the opera: immediately watch the Bugs Bunny version.
My family loves cartoons, and, in particular, animated versions of the classics. We used to watch the Mr. Magoo adapted classics from the 1964 series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. My parents always joked that if I ever wrote a paper on Moby Dick that I would accidentally mention the old near-sighted man who sailed the open seas.
My mom especially loves Mr. Magoo. She wonders every year, aghast, why there is no Mr. Magoo float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I tell her, maybe next year.
Mr. Quincy Magoo often adds flair to the characters he portrays or stories he narrates. He is very versatile. One of his best is A Midsummer Night’s Dream where he plays Puck. But our family favorite has got to be Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, where he plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
In all of these specials, Mr. Magoo is an actor who starts off in his dressing room and is about to perform in a show within a show. Bugs Bunny is also an actor in The Rabbit of Seville. While being hunted by Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny takes refuge in the stage door of an outdoor opera house. Elmer follows him and finds himself on stage watching Bugs Bunny play all of the characters, including Figaro and Rosina, in the opera and singing to beat the band. He went off-script and sang his own words to the famous score, but that doesn’t matter. What a chameleon. What wit. Is there anything that rabbit can’t do?
My love of adaptations has persisted to this day. I loved all the Shakespeare movies like Ten Things I Hate About You and She’s the Man. In high school, I would adapt Latin and Greek plays into modern settings. I think my favorite was Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, which my friends and I updated. We performed it in a contest for the New York Classical Club and won second place. A close second was our version of the Judgment of Paris set on the Jersey Shore (excuse the dated reference). These stories can be adapted because they get at the fundamentals of the human condition. We can relate to these characters and their feelings.
I am so thankful that I was able to see this production at such a beautiful space. Thanks to Bugs Bunny, I will never forget how much I love the story of the Barber/Rabbit of Seville. Next on my list is the Woody the Woodpecker version. I bet it won’t disappoint.