Uncovering new music through Video Games is no new thing (Madden, anyone?) But there’s a new trend in music discovery—opera, because truly nothing is more theatrical/epic than Wagner. In the same way pop music is licensed to and composed for commercials, television and film, video games are often used as an outlet for discovery. And why not go the classic route? Here are some examples of the best, current uses of opera in video games.
1. Red Alert 3, “Soviet March”
Perhaps the most popular song in Red Alert 3, “Soviet March” was created by video game composer James Hannigan. This is a new kind of composition—operatic and invented solely for the game purposes—so not licensed, but original composition.
2. Bioshock, “The Ocean on His Shoulders”
The entire Bioshock series is composed of licensed music from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, as well as original music by Garry Schyman. “The Ocean on His Shoulders” is the main theme and exists in the latter camp. Interestingly enough, the rest of the game takes old blues music which makes an obscure genre more recognizable to a younger generation. Cool, right?
3. Heroes of Might and Magic V, “Haven Town”
The soundtrack to Heroes of Might and Magic V was composed by Paul Anthony Romero, a film and television composer known for his work with the video game series. His musical ability started early on and the composer is soon to be featured in a Sundance Channel Documentary film entitled, “The Gift,” a documentary on classical musicians who were child prodigies. Insane.
4. Kings Bounty: The Legend, “Under the Shadow of the Oak”
Kings Bounty: The Legend is a Russian video game, with all it’s music written by Moscow-based composer Mikhail Kostylev. The song “Under the Shadow of the Oak,” along with the game’s other tracks are specific to location / it’s inhabitants, like a play or an opera itself!
5. Arcanum: Of Steamworks of & Magick Obscura, “Main Theme”
The soundtrack to the Arcanum series operates in the vein of instrumental music composed by American video game composer Ben Houge. What makes this game particularly interesting is that it frees itself from the traditional nature of operatic music in video games (symphonic orchestration) and sticks to string instruments almost exclusively. The overall structure, however, remains the same: specific music for a specific location, like sonic vignettes. The tempo speeds for combat. But most importantly, it’s effin’ gorgeous.
6. Icewind Dale, “Easthaven (Theme)” (Dungeons & Dragons)
Icewind Dale, part of the Dungeons & Dragons “Forgotten Realms” campaign and is known for it’s solely instrumental opera with a specific interest in Medieval woodwind sound.
7. Battlecry Mosaic, “Invicible” (World of Warcraft)
To be fair, basically 97.456% of World of Warcraft is operatic. The above is just one of the more popular tracks, and with good reason… it’s haunting chorus of both young and matured voices, it’s impossible not to get chills.
8. Final Fantasy VI, “Aria di Mezzo Carattere”
The majority of Final Fantasy VI is opera, “Aria di Mezzo Carattere,” perhaps one of the best examples: it plays during a cut scene in the game—where an actual opera occurs, placing the tune in the spotlight, even for a minute, of the game’s storyline. (Fun fact: “Aria” is the Italian word for “air,” but in opera, refers to an expressive melody typically performed by a singer.)
This track, like many of the sounds in the game, uses leitmotif (recurring musical pieces that function to move a narrative along.) The Italian version of the soundtrack consists of Italian lyrics performed by Svetla Krasteva with n orchestral accompaniment. It was later re-recorded and performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. So, yeah, basically, it’s a big deal. A big, awesome, larger-than-life deal.
9. Parasite Eve, “Opening Sequence”
The game’s soundtrack was created by Yoko Shimomura, arguably Japan’s most famous female video game composer. What’s super important about this game is that the darn thing opens with the Metropolitan Opera set aflame. What better way to begin (or end) then with a giant cinematic number?