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Nightmare Fuel / Opera

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Pictured above: Amelita Galli-Curci as Lucia di Lammermoor, 1920's

Believe it or not, even opera itself is filled with plenty of moments to give you nightmares for a good while or so.

  • The entirety of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle is filled to the brim with pure nightmare fuel, considering its source material. The opera's set in a dark and creepy castle with seven locked doors, and there's already a rather cold feel in the relationship between Bluebeard and his new wife Judith. Let's not forget about the dead ex-wives. The score itself is incredibly terrifying.
  • Richard Strauss' Salome is incredibly messed up, in addition to being scary. There's Princess Salome, who's willing to strip for her stepfather before demanding the head of Jochanaan. If that weren't enough, at the end, Salome actually kisses Jochanaan's severed head and declares her love for it in front of everyone. It horrifies Herod enough to order her to be executed.
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  • Verdi's Macbeth, much like Shakespeare's original play, is filled with this. There's the part when Lady Macbeth kills King Duncano when her husband can't bring himself to complete it, and the scene when Macbeth sees Banco's ghost at the dinner with the other nobles. Of course, there's also the Witches, who are now an entire chorus and not just three witches.
  • Yet another Richard Strauss opera, Elektra, also contains plenty of nightmare fuel. After King Agamemnon of Mycenae is murdered by Klytämnestra and her consort Aegisth, Agamemnon's daughter Elektra becomes obsessed with avenging her father's death to the point of insanity. Elektra repeatedly fantasizes about avenging her father's death, and even dreams of dancing in celebration. However, things reach the breaking point when her brother Orest returns to Mycenae, and it results in a bloodbath, in which Klytämnestra, Aegisth, and all their followers are massacred. But what truly makes this creepy is at the end of the massacre, Elektra is so elated with avenging Agamemnon's death that she dances herself to death. And to top it all off, when her sister Chrysothemis to get Orest, there's no answer at all. Real chilling.
  • Mad scenes in operas are filled with this:
    • Lucia's mad scene from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor is both Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker. Already, Lucia is a fragile character, but her mental state rapidly deteriorates when her brother Enrico threatens to haunt her if she doesn't marry his ally Arturo. Lucia's offstage murder of Arturo sets the tone for the incoming aria "Il dolce suono" before she comes into the scene, dressed in her bloody wedding dress and completely unaware of her crime, singing about marrying Edgardo. The way she acts as if he's there and singing to him is both chilling and heartbreaking. Even worse, Lucia dies from her madness, which really emphasizes how frail of a woman she really was.
      • Lucia's Act I aria "Regnava nel silenzio" is equally chilling, both in melody and in lyrics. Lucia basically recalls how she saw the ghost of a woman killed at the fountain the scene is set by one of Edgardo's ancestors. Alisa, Lucia's maid, tries telling her that the ghost was a warning, and that her romance with Edgardo would only end in tragedy.
    • Yet another Donizetti opera, Anna Bolena, has a mad scene. It focuses on the final days of Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) as the wife of King Enrico VIII (Henry VIII) of England. Not only is she in the Tower of London awaiting execution, but when she goes mad, she imagines that she's marrying Enrico, before imagining Riccardo Percy and asks him to take her back to her childhood home. Even worse, right before her execution, Anna snaps out of her madness, and despite being condemned to death by her husband because he took on a different woman, she doesn't wish any ill upon them.
    • Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas, again based on Shakespeare's famous play, has Ophélie's mad scene. To start off, Ophélie has gone mad from Hamlet's rejection of her, and has wandered into the countryside, encountering some peasants while dressed in a nightgown and having flowers and vines in her hair. She tells the peasants not to believe the news of Hamlet's rejection of her, hands flowers to the young girls in an upbeat melody, before shifting to a somber melody and singing about water sprites that drown lovers. And at the very end, Ophélie drowns in the river, just like Shakespeare's play. It even follows Gertrude's description of Ophelia's death in Shakespeare's play!
  • Bizet's Carmen has the scene when Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès read fortunes from tarot cards. While Frasquita and Mercédès' cards promise love and wealth, Carmen's cards repeatedly show the death of both herself and her current lover Don José. Then there's the Fate motif constantly being played during certain scenes, especially when Carmen throws the flower at Don José in Act I, almost telling us that Carmen's fate has been sealed the minute she chose Don José.
  • Puccini's Tosca has quite a bit of this. Act I has Scarpia's plans to kill Mario Cavaradossi and rape his lover Floria Tosca, but it's nothing compared to Act II. The second act features Cavaradossi's offstage torture, in which he's described as having a strap on his head with hooks digging into his skin that make him bleed whenever he refuses to tell the truth. Worse, we don't even see it; all we hear is Cavaradossi crying out in pain offstage and Tosca's own horrified and despairing reactions as she begs Scarpia for mercy. Then, there's Scarpia's namesake ultimatum in which he attempts to blackmail Tosca into sleeping with him in exchange for her lover's life.
  • Already the story of Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber is scary enough, what with a hunter making a Deal with the Devil for magic bullets, but there's the scene in the Wolf's Glen. The last bullet's path is not controlled by Max, but by the Devil himself.
  • Arnold Schoenberg's opera Erwartung is the operatic equivalent of a psychological horror movie. The only role is an unnamed woman, sung by a soprano, who is searching for her lover in the woods at night. Upon coming across a tree trunk that she thinks is her lover, she unleashes a tirade of fears and emotions. But when she comes across the actual body of her lover, she tries reviving him and even accusing him of being unfaithful to her. It's honestly terrifying. The whole opera is set to music that's scary in its own right.
  • The end of Mozart's Don Giovanni, when Donna Anna's father, the Commendatore, rises from beyond the grave in statue form and drags Don Giovanni to Hell as punishment for his sins.
  • A good part of Act Four of Verdi's Otello. We have Desdemona's Willow Song, especially when she sings 'Salce, Salce' in an almost haunting voice. And then when Otello enters the bedroom, the score becomes much more sinister and dark, and you can practically feel the tension. And moments before Otello kills Desdemona, especially when he's confronting her, the music is very ominous, building all the way up to when Otello finally kills Desdemona.
  • The finale of Verdi's Aida. Radamès is sentenced to be buried alive for betraying Egypt, and he's just been sealed in the vault of the temple when he sees Aida in the tomb with him. The music when the priests and priestesses sing above their prayer to Ptah, the creator god, is absolutely chilling, and the desperation in Radamès voice when he tries to free them both is equally ominous. At this point, both Radamès and Aida have accepted their fate, which is very much worse than death, and just sing their farewell to the world — a few lines over and over — as they prepare to pass into the next world. On the last repetition, Princess Amneris comes into the temple and throws herself on the crypt, repeating in heartbroken tones a prayer to Isis to end their suffering and welcome them to heaven in peace. The resignation of the melody is both haunting and saddening. Amneris' "Pace, pace, pace" and the clergy's very soft "Immenso Ptah!" is the last thing we hear.
  • Alban Berg's Wozzeck, like its source material, is filled with nightmare fuel on multiple levels, from the title character's descent into madness to the cruelty of the society around him, all amplified by Berg's atonal, expressionist score. One of the most terrifying parts is Act 3, Scene 2, the scene where Wozzeck kills his mistress Marie. Wozzeck's unhinged, creepy behavior is underscored by absollutely chilling music, featuring the constant appearance of a B-natural note (symbolising Wozzeck's obsession with murder). At the moment when he kills her, this B-natural is pounded on the timpani.
  • Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King is a depiction of King George III in his last years when he had succumbed to dementia. The whole opera is set to hair-raising atonal music and features extended singing techniques that makes the baritone sound inhuman. The most shocking moment occurs in the seventh scene, when King George grab's the violinist's violin and smashes it into pieces.
  • Can you believe they made an opera out of The Shining?
  • If you think some of the Verdi sections included are scary, try the original ending of La Forza del Destino. In it, Don Alvaro, having seen Leonora and her entire family perish, jumps off a cliff after cursing humanity, right in front of the horrified monks! Even for the most seasoned opera-goer, this is a pretty intense ending, not to mention a bizarre one. Thankfully, Verdi revised it by 1869, and it is the 1869 version we are most familiar with.
  • In the 1950's, the Greek vocal actress Maria Callas used to shock audiences with her take on the death of Violetta at the conclusion La Traviata. Violetta suddenly feels better (a common sign of imminent death in tuberculosis), thinks she's getting better, says O gioia! (Oh joy) and drops dead. Callas would rise from her chair and belt out O gioi -- and freeze, still standing, eyes wide open and staring straight into the audience. And you thought opera was dull!

From the Dario Argento film:
Being tied up isn't fun now, is it?
  • The scene where Mira and Betty are being stalked by the killer in Betty's apartment is extremely creepy, well-shot, and tense.
  • Betty having needles placed under her eyelids and taped there so that she will be forced to watch the slaying of her lover.
  • A raven gouges out and devours the killer's eye

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