A familiar ring to it

IT'S not the first time opera has served as the backdrop for the operatic violence in a cinematic tale of organized crime. But it's probably safe to say that Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" is the first mob film to use opera as cellphone ring tone -- for Jack Nicholson's crime leader, Frank Costello.

Howard Shore, composer of the movie's original score, says that weaving the well-known Act 2 sextet "Chi mi frena" from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" into the film was Scorsese's idea. "It's also in the scene where Costello goes to the opera; you are seeing a little bit of 'Lucia,' " Shore says.

Shore says Scorsese decided to use this snatch of the opera in homage to Howard Hawks' 1932 classic "Scarface," in which Paul Muni's character, Tony "Scarface" Camonte, whistles the sextet while gunning down a gangland boss.

Shore also played with musical symbolism: He composed the score for four guitarists as a sort of accelerating tango.

"Marty thought the tango represented what he called the 'dance of death' that everyone in the movie is doing," he says. "The movie begins with two guitars, and then expands, and ends with Marc Ribot's Dobro and Larry Saltzman's steel-string in a kind of battle, almost a bullfight, to end the tango."

-- Diane Haithman

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