After drawing a crowd of 15,000 attendees to Cowboys Stadium for a live simulcast of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Dallas Opera aims for repeated success this April with Turnadot. This year’s curtain-raiser, however, will be the world’s largest screening of What’s Opera, Doc?, displayed on the Stadium’s record-breaking 160-foot wide, 72-foot tall HD screens.
Surprisingly, Cowboys Stadium was planned from the outset to bring high art into the lives of sports fans—Gene Jones, the wife of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is almost solely responsible for the Stadium’s museum-quality collection of contemporary art. This arena-turned-cultural center will provide the setting for the latest chapter in the love-hate relationship between animation and classical music.
With Fantasia, Walt Disney quite literally tried to align animation with the high arts, with ostriches unironically performing ballet pas de deuxs set to the “Dance of the Hours” from the opera La Gioconda. Eventually, animation and classical music became a tongue-in-cheek pairing; during the early 1950s it was commonplace to see Wile E. Coyote assemble a spring-loaded rocket launcher to the sounds of a lilting oboe. By the time Chuck Jones produced What’s Opera, Doc? in 1957, it was a way of saying “Screw ’em,” to the established arts. “I never made a cartoon that didn’t contain some flick-of-the-wrist at the establishment of the day,” said Jones in Chuck Jones: Conversations.
This April, in a very public arena, Jones and his work will be embraced by the very establishment he parodied. Only now, as opera faces its biggest identity crisis, does it wholeheartedly embrace the exaggerated cultural conventions we’ve established over the years: busty valkyries, lovesick brutes and overdone pageantry. Keith Cerny, the CEO of Dallas Opera acknowledges that What’s Opera Doc? is “still creative, interesting, fresh, plays off the same stereotypes about opera that we’re addressing today.” Proponents of opera have realized that the best chance of fruitful survival is to laugh with us—if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.