The Italian Roots of Contemporary Disney Music

music picAs we mention in our Intro to Italian Music section, Italian music is the often under-represented base of so many other forms of Western Music, including contemporary popular songs.


In this post we’re going to take a look at how Disney songs have been shaped by Italian musical history, and in particular the works of Italian Operatic styles.


Why Disney Music?


Disney music is a great example to use to illustrate the breadth of stylistic influence because it has a firm grounding in operatic structure. Solo Disney songs are much akin to operatic arias, where the character presents his or her internal beliefs or conflicts that he or she is facing within the context of the movie’s plot.

For example, take some of the most popular songs currently available by Disney, including both Frozen and Tangled.

Examples in Frozen


In Frozen, the song Let It Go, sung by Elsa as she escapes society and builds her new ice-castle on top of the mountain. In the song, Elsa doesn’t just narrate her own actions, but actually reveals a number of her own insecurities, hopes, and plans.


It is only through this style of artistic narration that we are able to get a true picture of the character, and see how her internal struggles and ability to overcome are the main factors driving the plot of the entire show.


See this easy Let It Go transcription from for a visual reduction of how this happens musically.


Another example in Frozen is For the First Time in Forever, when Anna expresses her joy and excitement to finally be allowed to socialize with the town and royalty of friendly nations, rather than play by herself in the solitude of the empty house and Elsa’s self-imposed isolation from her.


In addition, Anna’s subsequent recapitulation of her new romance with Prince Hans is oddly reminiscent of Verdi’s Aida and the aria Celeste Aida, in which a new love is encountered and developed upon through the use of individualistic solos.

Click here for more Frozen piano music examples.


Examples in Tangled


We see the same elements at play in the opening of Tangled, when the princess narrates her day with the song When Will My Life Begin.

Much like the first song of an opera, the role of this piece is not simply to present the character and show her daily routine, but to begin to show how her emotions come to play as she thinks about her routine and, by extension, her life.


This type of introduction is far more powerful, and something that would be difficult to achieve without relying on the narrative elements of a solo aria. Listen for the cues in the video below.




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