opera in parody


Does the oft quoted bromide that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" include the "art" of parody?  And when does parody become an intentional mockery or total travesty?  Opera has always been a prime target for mocking and burlesque.  The popular "stuffed shirt" view of opera has invariably made it a mark for ridicule.  How better to reduce so lofty a subject from its pedestal than to treat it inconsequentially, with mock dignity and even downright disdain?  Often, even the "mock dignity" is omitted but the burlesque remains.   Was not the early musical farce even a caricature of "opera seria" in opera history?  Samples of all of these are in The Durbeck Archive.

As well as accruing over 40,000 LPs of "serious" classical vocal music, The Durbeck Archive has also made a serious attempt to accumulate as many examples as possible of opera and classical vocal parodies.  An earnest study of parody is impossible without copious examples of the original art form  - that which is being parodied - and the actual parodies themselves.  This collection of opera and classical vocal parodies is the only known attempt to combine both of these musical, cultural endeavors.  Although only a few are shown on this site, The Durbeck Archive has many, many more such examples.


Musically Mad

Bernie Greene 
& Stereo Mad-Men

RCA Victor Records, 
LSP 1929

12" LP, stereo

The interesting parodies on this LP are two take-offs on Gilbert and Sullivan and Wagner by Henry Morgan aka "Heinrich von Morgan."

The Art of Belly Canto

Gordon Myers, baritone

Private Pressing

12"  LP, monaural

Parodies of Purcell, Hume, Mozart, Reinagle; original works e.g. The Belly Cantata, Sweet and Sour Suite for Baritone and Bassoon.  Recorded from live performance in 1978. Sylvia Eversole, accompanist


Ari Petros, singer

Jennifer Records, GH 111

12" LP, stereo

Works by Romberg, Kern, Berlin, Arndt and others. Includes: They Needed a Songbird in Heaven so God Took Caruso Away; Rosa Rigoletto; I'm After Madame Tetrazzini's Job; I Want to Sing in Opera; Operatic Rag etc.

Opera Stars in a
Silly Mood

Legendary Records,
LR 200, 12" LP, mono

"Silly" performances from radio, television and live performances - the "stuffing" is out of the shirt! Autographed by Blanche Thebom, Marilyn Horne, Robert Merrill and Joan Sutherland (on back of jacket).

Just For Laughs

Andy Griffith, monologist

Capitol Records, T 962

12" LP, monaural

Andy Griffith's recounting of a "country boy's" going to see Carmen is quite memorable as an opera parody. Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake don't fare much better by this
"hillbilly racon-tooor!"

Spike Jones is Murdering the Classics

Spike Jones and His City Slickers

RCA Victor, LSC 3235(e)

12" LP, stereo

The great classic spoofs of opera are Spike Jones' Carmen and Pal-Yat-Chee.  The other "kidded" classics are legendary. Also includes Ina Souez's famous "Il Barkio."

One on the Aisle; An Intimate View of Grand Opera as seen by -

Ray Bourbon, entertainer

UTC Records, UTC 6

12" LP, monaural

Spoofs on Wagner, Bizet and Verdi - Carmen never had it so good; an uncomplicated "plot" to Il Trovatore and others.

Gildy Sells Opera Tickets

1951 Radio Broadcast

Golden Age Records,
GA 5024
12" LP, monaural

Harold Peary, as the intractable Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, tries to sell opera tickets to one and all.  Interestingly shows a perception of opera in radio's middle America.

Der Hamburger Freischütz

frei nach Carl Maria von Weber

Philips Records, 6501 010;  12" LP, stereo

A parody of Weber's opera, Der Freischütz.  How is your "platt" Deutsch?

The Surprising Soprano

Michael Aspinall, soprano

London Records,
OS 26537

12" LP, stereo

"affectionally  dedicated to the follies and foibles of great singers past and present" - contains arias, art songs, ballads and special arrangements, all uniquely sung -

The World of Joan Turner

Joan Turner, comedienne

Decca-England, SPA 135

12" LP, stereo

A trained (one wonders what she did with the money her parents gave her for singing lessons!) soprano with funny parodies of opera melodies - somewhere between Anna Russell and Spike Jones.

The Tenor with the Broken Voice

Orson Welles as
"The Shadow" - original radio broadcast

Golden Age Records,
GA 5001

12" LP, monaural

Why is there a jinx on the aria Vesti la Giuba?  Why is the opera Pagliacci plagued with death for the tenors - "The Shadow Knows!"

Shirley Temple
Song Book

Shirley Temple

20th Fox Records, 
TCF 1032, 2 LPs

12" LPs, monaural

From the 1936 film Captain January, Shirley and friends (Guy Kibbee, Buddy Ebsen, George Irving, Slim Summerville et al) sing the "Sextet from Lucia"   Honest!

Autographed on the back of the jacket by
Shirley Temple (Black)
in 1988 - the tale of how this album came to be autographed is unique and a bit complex - but it's there and it is authentic.

Anna Russell sings! again?
Anna Russell, Concert Comedienne
John Coveart, pianist
Columbia Records,
ML 4733, 12" LP, mono

Contains her famous Ring of the Nibelungs analysis as well as "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera."   The Archive had more of her records than she did!!!!

Opera  Bluffa

Sven-Eric Johanson,
piano and voices

Proprius, PROP 7717

12"  LP, stereo

Swedish parody of opera , utilizing many tunes and airs from opera and operetta, in the style of Victor Borge

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