The KDFC Classical All-Stars Countdown will begin next Tuesday morning – and with an ominous roiling of hooves and violin trills (not to mention the smell of napalm and victory). Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is likely to make the list. There’s plenty of staying power in the work, which has seared itself into our popular culture.
It’s hard to catalog the number of places it pops up in film and TV – going back to the very early days of film history, when it was used to accompany D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, but also forever associated with the helicopters rising over the horizon in Apocalypse Now. It’s hummed by James Dean’s character in Rebel Without a Cause, and referenced in such unlikely TV shows as “Lost in Space” and “My Little Pony.”
It’s the opening of the third act of Die Walküre, which is the second of the four operas that make up Wagner’s massive Ring Cycle. The valkyries gather and greet each other – and it’s usually accompanied by some inventive staging, like in this, by the Metropolitan Opera: