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Sound of Cinema: Christopher Lee

As part of the BBC's Sound of Cinema season, actor Christopher Lee talks about the music that has inspired him.

Film star Christopher Lee has played a huge number of roles and is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula in Hammer Horror films and as Saruman in Lord of the Rings. As part of the Sound of Cinema season, he talks about the music that has inspired him. #BBCSoundofCinema

The great British actor, one of the foremost "Draculas" of the silver screen; star of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, and of countless British films, shares his passion for music - and in particular opera - on Radio 3's Saturday Classics; recorded as part of the BBC's Sound of Cinema Season. As Sir Christopher says at the beginning of his programme, "he is often asked to talk about his life in film, but it is rare that he is given the opportunity to indulge his passion, and links his with the world of opera". His great grand-parent's family included professional opera singers, living and working in Australia in the mid 19th century (his great grandmother was known as the "Tasmanian Nightingale"). It is from them that Christopher has inherited his love of opera. Indeed, as Christopher Lee tells us, very nearly pursued a career as an opera singer himself, encouraged by the Swedish tenor Jüssi Bjorling who over-heard him singing in a bar with some friends.

Sir Christopher has chosen to present a selection of recordings highlighting some of the finest voices of the 20th century - some of whom he has known as friends. Tenors, baritones and basses singing Puccini, Verdi, Wagner and Offenbach, From Enrico Caruso, Ezio Pinza and Lauritz Melchior to Sherrill Milnes and Jonas Kaufmann.

2 hours

Music Played

  • Adolphe Adam

    "Mes amis, ecoutez" from "Le Postillon de Lonjumeau"

    Singer: Helge Roswenger. Orchestra: Staatskapelle Berlin. Conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler.
    • Nimbus.
  • James Bernard

    "The Devil Rides Out" - The Power of Evil

    Orchestra: Uncredited orchestra.
    • Silva Screen.
  • Giacomo Puccini

    "Donna Non Vidi Mai" from Act 1 of Puccini's opera "Manon Lescaut"

    Performer: Enrico Caruso. Orchestra: Uncredited orchestra.
    • Naxos.
  • Magnet & Paul Giovanni

    "The Tinker of Rye" (from the film "The Wicker Man")

    Singer: Christopher Lee. Singer: Diane Cilento. Performer: Gary Carpenter.
    • Silva Screen.
  • John Philip Sousa

    The Stars and Stripes Forever (transcribed for piano by Horowitz)

    Performer: Horowitz, Vladimir.
    • RCA.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Excerpt from 4th movement of Symphony No.9 in D minor "Choral"

    Singer: Gundula Janowitz. Singer: Hilde Rössel-Majdan. Singer: Waldemar Kmentt. Singer: Walter Berry. Orchestra: BERLIN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
  • Ruggero Leoncavallo

    "Vesti la giubba" from "Pagliacci"

    Singer: Jonas Kaufmann. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome. Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano.
    • Decca.
  • Magnet & Paul Giovanni

    "Summer is A-Cumen In" (from the film "The Wicker Man")

    Ensemble: The Wicker Man Ensemble and Chorus.
    • Silva Screen.
  • Richard Wagner

    "Ein Schwert verhiess" from Act 1, Scene 3 of "Die Valkyrie"

    Singer: Lauritz Melchior. Orchestra: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Conductor: Erich Leinsdorf.
    • Marco Polo.
  • Jacques Offenbach

    "Au mont Ida trois déesses" from Act 3 of "La Belle Helene"

    Orchestra: Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra. Conductor: Bruno Bartoletti.
    • Minerva.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Finlandia

    Orchestra: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Mariss Jansons.
    • EMI.
  • Giuseppe Verdi

    "Ella giammai m'amo" from Act 3 of "Don Carlo"

    Singer: Ezio Pinza. Orchestra: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Conductor: Fausto Cleva.
    • Lebendige Vergangenheit.
  • Gioachino Rossini

    The Barber of Seville (Overture)

    • Decca.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    First movement from Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor

    Performer: Jean‐Yves Thibaudet. Orchestra: Cleveland Orchestra. Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • Decca.
  • Giuseppe Verdi

    "Bella figlia dell'amore" from Act 3 of "Rigoletto"

    Singer: Joan Sutherland. Singer: Luciano Pavarotti. Singer: Huguette Tourangeau. Singer: Sherrill Milnes. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Bonynge.
    • Decca.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Arabian Dance from The Nutcracker Suite

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • Decca.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • Decca.
  • Richard Wagner

    "Die Frist ist um" from Act 1 of "Der fliegende Hollander"

    Singer: Hermann Uhde. Orchestra: Bath Festival Orchestra. Conductor: Joseph Keilberth.
    • Teldec.

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