Martin Scorsese and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: A classical music survey
The music: “Cold Song” aria from “King Arthur” by Henry Purcell.
The scene: At a Long Island house party, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), right, and his business associate Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) get high on Quaaludes for the first time. The aria plays over a slow-motion shot of Jordan and Donnie losing control of their faculties.
Of special note: In the Purcell piece, the aria is sung by a winter deity who is awakened from deep hibernation. The lyrics contain references to “snow” — an apt image for a movie whose characters inhale an abundant amount of cocaine. The aria was also used in Maurice Pialat’s 1983 movie “A Nos Amours.” (Paramount)
The music: The Intermezzo from the opera “Cavalleria Rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni.
The scene: The music plays over the opening credits as Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) paces in a boxing ring.
Of special note: Another Mascagni snippet — the Barcarolle from his “Silvano” — is used for the home-movie montage showing the domestic life of La Motta and his wife, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). (United Artists)
The music: Air from Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major, by J.S. Bach.
The scene: Bach’s music is heard at the beginning of the movie as the Griffin Dunne character loses his concentration at work. The music — which serves as a counterpoint to the mundane nature of his job — continues well into the scene when he meets Rosanna Arquette at a coffee shop.
Of special note: The movie’s hectic opening and closing credit sequences are scored to the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 45 in D major. (Warner Home Video)
The music: Nessun Dorma from “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini.
The scene: Suffering from artist’s block, celebrated painter Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) switches his stereo player from rock music to Puccini as he contemplates his canvas and wrestles with his attraction to his former assistant (Rosanna Arquette).
Of special note: In “Turandot,” the young hero spends the night longing for a princess who doesn’t love him back. The operatic plot is similar to the movie’s central relationship, in which Nolte keeps late-night vigils over the Arquette character. (Touchstone Home Video)
The music: Selections from “Faust” by Charles Gounod.
The scene: In the opening sequence, the principle characters attend a performance of the opera at the old Academy of Music in New York.
Of special note: The Academy of Music was located on East 14th Street and was demolished in the 1920s. Scorsese and his production team used Philadelphia’s Academy of Music for the movie’s opera scenes. (Columbia Pictures)
The music: St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach.
The scene: The oratorio is used over the opening credits as Sam Rothstein’s (Robert De Niro, left, with Joe Pesci) body is shown flying through the air after his car explodes. It can also be heard near the end of the movie during a montage showing the destruction of old casino buildings.
Of special note: Pier Paolo Pasolini used the same music as a recurring theme in his 1961 movie “Accattone.” (Phil Caruso)
The music: Selections from “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti.
The scene: Mafia kingpin Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, right with Leonardo DiCaprio) attends a performance of the opera in the company of several lady friends whom he later takes home for a cocaine-fueled orgy.
Of special note: Music from the Donizetti opera is whistled throughout Howard Hawk’s 1932 gangster classic “Scarface,” which Scorsese has said was a significant influence on “The Departed.” (Andrew Cooper / Warner Bros. Pictures)
The music: Selections from pieces by 20th century composers including Ingram Marshall, John Cage and Krzysztof Penderecki.
The scene: To pick just one — the movie’s opening sequence, showing Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo approaching a fog-enshrouded prison island by boat, begins with Marshall’s “Fog Tropes” before segueing into the ominous chords of the Passacaglia movement of Penderecki’s “Third Symphony.”
Of special note: When the movie opened, Times music critic Mark Swed spoke to the film’s music supervisor, Robbie Robertson, about his unconventional choices for the soundtrack. (Andrew Cooper / Paramount Pictures)