On Air Now
Classic FM Breakfast with Tim Lihoreau 7am - 9am
8 June 2022, 14:25
The music of Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Bach sits alongside Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ in episodes three to seven of the new ‘Stranger Things’ season.
Warning: contains Stranger Things Season 4 spoilers
The Stranger Things theme tune is a love letter to the sounds of the ‘80s. But what if we told you that the rest of the soundtrack went even further back in its musical nostalgia – to the 1780s?
In episode three of Season 4, the show’s music supervisor ushers us into the world of 1880s Italian opera. A Verdi duet, followed by a Puccini aria, rings through the living room while the gang, reluctantly eating a risotto cooked up by conspiracy theorist Murray (Brett Gelman), begin to suspect Joyce (Winona Ryder) of hiding information from them.
The following episode sees Bach’s Minuet in D minor rather eerily ‘calming’ patients at an asylum. Meanwhile, some of the season’s final dramatic moments are scored by Philip Glass’ 1980s masterpiece, Akhnaten, often billed as one of the greatest operas to have emerged from the 20th century.
Here’s all the classical music and opera that we spied in Stranger Things Season 4 – and where it appears in each episode.
Watch the trailer for Stranger Things 4 Vol. 1
As the kids trudge in for dinnertime, the rich voice of late, great baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky rings through the house. The piece is a duet from Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, ‘V’ho ingannato… Colpevole fui’, recorded by Hvorostovsky and American soprano Nadine Sierra.
The camera cuts to the dinner table, and as the gang begrudgingly eats Murray’s risotto, we hear Puccini’s aria ‘Che gelida manina’ from La bohème in a recording by American tenor Richard Tucker and the Orchestra of the Rome Opera House.
Puccini’s great melody builds drama, as Joyce is forced to lie that her trip to Alaska the following day is for a ‘business conference’.
At the fictional Pennhurst Mental Hospital, patients are invited into a ‘listening room’, where they can listen to relaxing music that supposedly has “a calming effect on the broken mind”.
“The right song, particularly one which holds some personal meaning,” we hear, “can prove a salient stimulus. But there are those who are behind a cure”.
Just over halfway through Episode 5, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is forced to confront her past in a bunker in Nevada, where scientist Brenner is explaining project Nina – a way to try to bring El’s powers back, so named after a 1780s opera.
“In 1786, Nicolas Dalayrac wrote an opera called Nina,” Brenner tells her. Composed by Dalayrac in French, it was adapted by the Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello in 1789 under the title Nina, O Sia la Pazza Per Amore.
“It’s a story about a young woman whose lover was killed in a duel. Nina was so traumatised that she buried the memory. It was as if it never happened. Every day she would return to the train station to await her lover’s return – a return that would never be. If only Nina could know the truth.”
As Brenner speaks, we hear the glorious mezzo voice of Cecilia Bartoli singing an aria from the work, ‘Il mio ben quando verrà’.
“Leave your train station,” Brenner tells El. “Stop waiting. Focus. Listen. Remember.”
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 5 Soundtrack: "Il mio ben quando verr" by Cecilia Bartoli
As the gang arrives at Dustin’s girlfriend, and expert hacker, Suzi’s house, the nimble and underrated genius of Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto (1945) plays. It acts as a musical mirror for the chaos of a house seemingly run by kindergarten children; from it, we hear the finale ‘Allegro assai vivace’.
Later in the episode, a great Tchaikovsky chorus from Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s musical drama The Snow Maiden signals an opulent feast for the prisoners, who are fattened up before being sent off to fight a demogorgon.
During the feast, a recording of ‘Cavatine Et Rondo D’Antonida’ by the National Bolshoi Orchestra plays.
While monstrous antagonist Vecna’s story unfolds, we hear Philip Glass’s eerie Prophecies, previously used in 2009 superhero film The Watchmen.
Slowly, episode 7 turns into a love letter to the modern minimalist master. As One talks to Eleven, we hear two moments from Glass’ opera Akhnaten: Act I Scene 3, ‘The Window of Appearances’, and Act II, Scene 2: ‘Akhnaten and Nefertiti’.
The third season of Stranger Things famously featured Verdi’s Drinking Song (‘Libiamo ne lieti calici’) and Boccherini’s String Quartet ‘Minuetto’.