Volvo’s new spokesmodel because that its SUVs, the Queen the the Night from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” (Diana Damrau), ordering up the killing of Sarastro, the High priest of the Sun, in a production at Covent Garden.

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The sweden car firm Volvo must have actually thought it was being real social and high-toned when it decided to usage a famous opera aria together the soundtrack for its brand-new television commercial.

Its idea, plainly, is to do a connection between the luxuriousness that its XC90 SUV and also the classiness of cool opera. “Can you design an SUV because that an aria?” asks the commercial, i m sorry is in regular rotation on broadcast and also cable TV. The camera wanders lovingly end the vehicle’s soft animal leather upholstery and its high-tech sound mechanism while the aria sound sweetly in the background. The ad’s tagline is: “Our idea that luxury.”

Opera pan watching this commercial have to cringe, if they’re no guffawing. That’s because the music ~ above the soundtrack is no paean to grace and also lovingkindness, yet the homicidal signature aria of one of the many monstrous characters in the canon.


She’s the Queen the the Night, the supreme villainess the Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and also she’s one vicious specimen. Think Cruella de Vil times 1 million.

Volvo no the an initial advertiser to strike a discordant note in a TV commercial. Instances are legion that multinational carriers committing social solecisms by overlooking vernacular translations of your slogans that revolve innocent words in one country into insults or profanities in another.

Then there are simply plain misfires. In 2017, Pepsi developed an advertisement featuring famous-for-being-famous design Kendall Jenner solving America’s racial discord through handing a have the right to of soda come a policeman in ~ a demonstration. One uproar on social media hounded the company into pulling the ad.

Last year, ram Trucks appropriated boy name Luther King Jr.’s words because that a at sight Bowl ad hawking that is products. This elevated two issues. One was just how some members of the King family were offering the civil rights icon’s words for commercial purposes, to the discontent the other family members. The other was the the decided Ram provided actually contained a i excoriating the advertiser-driven quest for product acquisitions, including cars. That passage, er, wasn’t provided in the ad.


In this case, Volvo plainly is count on consumers’ ignorance of the true import and cultural context the its soundtrack. It sound comforting together background music, ~ all, and it’s sung sweetly enough.

So let’s fill in the blanks.

The aria itself, i beg your pardon is heard in the opera’s second act, opens up with the words “Der Holle Rache,” or “The vengeance that hell,” and gets just nastier indigenous there: “Death and despair flame around me,” the Queen sings. “Hear, gods of revenge, listen a mummy oath!”

The aria is handle to she daughter, Pamina, who she is commanding to commit killing on pains of gift “disowned, abandoned, destroyed...forever.”


The certain passage Volvo determined for the advertisement is especially famous. The a warhorse for sopranos to display off, an astronomically long florid division that takes the soprano up to optimal F after ~ a punishing string of high Cs. The division is based on the Queen’s warning come Pamina the if she no commit the killing she commands, “Then you will be my daughter nevermore.”

She seems nice.

(The lyrics deserve to be heard ~ above the advertisement soundtrack, yet who understands German anymore, various other than Germans?)

It’s worth noting the Volvo’s advertisement producers inserted their thumbs ~ above the range a bit. The Canadian soprano featured in the ad, Emily Cheung, is coached or videotaped to give the music a tenderness chirpiness — which wake up to be the most usual shortcoming of negative recordings of the number, committed by singers unable to summon what the critic William Mann dubbed the “unrighteous wrath” of the Queen of the Night. The producer discarded Mozart’s thunderous plan (flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets, drums and also strings) in favor of a wan type of synthesizer pizzicato.

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None the that way that Volvo might not have the ability to sell its deluxe SUVs to buyers entranced by Mozart’s music without them discovering it’s one imprecation to violence. As for me, I’d be afraid the every time I got behind the wheel I’d start contemplating bloody murder, the target being whoever decided to mitigate a work-related of art to a commercial jingle.